Thursday, December 15, 2016

Conspiracy of Silence by Ronie Kendig

A Review

I requested to review this latest book by Ronie Kendig because I have enjoyed her previous military thrillers. Each of those featured a special forces fighter with great skill, but relational/emotional problems, who finds himself on a perilous mission with civilians to protect. Among those civilians is a woman who eventually will become the love interest. I had hoped that this novel would be similar to those with lots of action, and in the basics, it was. However, the convoluted plot left confusion that was not part of her other novels.

Conspiracy of Silence is a military thriller along the lines of Tom Clancy or Lee Childs, with an emotionally distraught soldier sent out after an assassin. However, this novel adds archaeology and two archaeologists, references to the Bible, a certain Biblical event, and the supernatural all thrown into the mix. Yes, think of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Ah, but if only it was another “Raiders!” Raiders had one Ark, one hero pursuing the Ark, and one love interest. In Conspiracy of Silence we also have one hero and one love interest, but we also have one assassin, four censers (containers for burning incense), and three pages (leaves) from the Aleppo Codex, a bound 10th century C.E. manuscript of the Hebrew Bible, originally kept in Aleppo, Syria, but later parts to parts of it were transferred to Israel. This book does not explain the Aleppo Codex until late in the story and in the appendix, however you can find information on Wikipedia.

In any event, at about the same time an American official is assassinated in England and our hero is tasked to eliminate the assassin, one of the archaeologists unearths a missing page from the Aleppo Codex and three censers, and somehow unleashes a plague which can be stopped only if all four censers are located and reunited along with several pages from the Aleppo Codex. This is where the novel loses its vision and lost this reader. A reader by definition must suspend their disbelief in the reality of the situation in order to become immersed in the world of the novelist. But when the novel loses its vision, the reader also loses theirs. If it had remained a novel about the search for and destruction of an assassin, it could have followed an interesting path and ended with a struggle between the protagonist and the antagonist in which the protagonist emerges bloody, but victorious. In other words, a classic hero novel.

But Conspiracy of Silence introduces a subplot which did not work. The subplot includes the theft of the censers, a plague introduced by the censers (how does that happen?), a need to find the censers and read certain marks on pages from the Aleppo Codex, which were located in different parts of the world, and the introduction of seemingly supernatural characters and situations. And, with the addition of this subplot, many more words (409 pages) than the author had in her prior novels.

The plot bogged down for me and my mind started questioning. How does a woman wrap her arms around her waist? Why do several team members smirk? Why is the team travelling with two archaeologists, putting two civilians at risk? Why does one archeologist who is skilled in martial arts never use this skill? Why does such a virulent plague only kill about a dozen people? Why is The Frenchman inserted like a super-hero? Why does one member of a covert team that had worked together on previous projects and who is very close to the team leader, why does this man have contacts and knowledge that are new to the team leader and that he refuses to disclose to the team leader? Why does the team need pages from the Aleppo Codex when they could consult any modern text of the Hebrew Bible and find the same information? Some of these questions are answered; most are not.

I also took issue with the author comparing the Masons to a terrorist organization. I don’t know her personal experiences with the Masons, but in a cursory search I found no evidence of their involvement in anything but charitable work. She could have easily compared the terrorist organization in her novel to the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS, or any other multi-national terrorist organizations.

Those issues aside, the novel does have plenty of perilous situations where our hero can shine. Yes, after a chapter that made me question the novel’s integrity, the following chapters have a real chase for information from a contact inside the religious establishment and an assassin that pops up in unexpected places. In fact, the second half of the novel picks up nicely with only a few pauses as the team resumes its search for the assassin and a way to stop the plague, experiencing secret tunnels, confusing messages, chases, shootouts, flaming arrows, explosions, an abduction, and everything you’d want in a thriller. There are only a few confusing blips—when the team leader thinks he is chasing down mace and the lack of any role for The Frenchman. All in all, it’s a satisfactory ending with tension-filled final scenes. If you skip over the confusing parts with the censers and Codex, you have ably written military thriller will give you hours of pleasure.

This novel was provided for me at no charge by the publisher for purposes of review. I was not required to write a positive review.