Review: The Alchemist's Secret by Scott Mariani

Tuesday, 24 March 2015
Title: The Alchemist's Secret (Ben Hope, #1)
Author: Scott Mariani
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: 3rd March 2008
Pages: 496
ISBN: 9781847563408
Source: Library
Rating: 3.5/5
Purchase: Amazon
When Ben is recruited to locate an ancient manuscript which could save a dying child, he embarks on the deadliest quest of his life.

The document is alleged to contain the formula for the elixir of life, discovered by the brilliant alchemist Fulcanelli decades before. But it soon becomes apparent that others are hunting this most precious of treasures - for far more evil ends.

When the secrets of alchemy hidden within the pages remain impenetrable, Ben teams up with beautiful American scientist Dr Roberta Ryder to crack the code.

It seems that everyone - from the Nazis during WW2 and powerful Catholic organisation Gladius Domini - wants to unearth the secrets of immortality.

The trail leads Ben and Roberta from Paris to the ancient Cathar strongholds of the Languedoc, where an astonishing secret has lain hidden for centuries...

I was only introduced to Scott Mariani in 2014 when I reviewed The Nemesis Program, in what seemed like no time at all I was reading Scott's next book, The Forgotten Holocaust just a couple of weeks ago. Both books kept me up all night, had my heart racing, and my jaw dropping. Cliches galore but that's what they did. I really wanted to go back to where it all began for our main character, Ben Hope, and so was thrilled to find The Alchemist's Secret at the library.

It is a very different Ben Hope than the one I am used to that we are introduced to in the beginning. A little bit of a loner, unable or unwilling to form a long-lasting relationship with a woman and still tormented over his past, he seems to just be plodding along with his life, albeit a riskier one than most given that he rescues victims of kidnap. When he is summoned, against his will to the home of a rich and powerful individual, he is shocked and angry when said individual tells Ben that he wants him to locate an ancient manuscript that he says could save a dying child. Fulcanelli's manuscript to be precise, alleged to contain the formula for the elixir of life. As always of course there's a number of other individuals seeking the manuscript, and countless others have tried and failed to obtain it in the past.

Ben Hope is reluctant to take on the case, and a little hesitant to believe that something like this could even exist. It's almost funny to see him act like this, now knowing the many journeys he has been on over the course of this series. Ben Hope has all the trademarks that his contemporaries in this genre have, but there's just something about him that sets him apart from all the rest, and I can't wait to pick up another book from Scott Mariani to continue Ben's story. His life almost seems normal in the beginning of this book, but we know that it's about to become anything but.

When reading The Alchemist's Secret it's clear that Scott is finding his feet so to speak, and whilst the writing may not be as good as it is in later books, I feel that the story is just as strong and I feel the criticism I have read about the book, in particular comparisons to similar authors is perhaps unwarranted, shock horror but there isn't only one author that can write in this genre. With all those action-packed scenes that keep you reading (it's not so much that Ben Hope has nine lives but seemingly unlimited) this is a hard book to put down once you start reading, even when you can just about keep your eyes open. I had to keep reading though to see if my little theory was correct, I can't say what that theory was only that I was correct, and it was a nice little twist.

3.5/5

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