Friday, June 23, 2017


THE STONEHENGE LEGACY by Sam Christer (Sphere, 2011)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

Eight days before the summer solstice, a man is butchered in a blood-freezing sacrifice on the ancient site of Stonehenge before a congregation of robed worshippers. Within hours, one of the world's foremost treasure hunters has shot himself in his country mansion. And to his estranged son, young archaeologist Gideon Chase, he leaves a cryptic letter . . .

Teaming up with an intrepid Wiltshire policewoman, Gideon soon exposes a secret society - an ancient international legion devoted for thousands of years to Stonehenge. With a charismatic and ruthless new leader at the helm, the cult is now performing ritual human sacrifices in a terrifying bid to unlock the secret of the stones.

Inspired by a recent visit to Stonehenge, I grabbed a copy of this book (from the Visitor Centre itself, and read it while in Salisbury for the weekend). I was pretty hopeful, but it turned out to be a bit of a strange read. Not in terms of the mysticism associated with the ancient stones, but in that it was a tale that wasn't particularly well-written, but I was strangely compelled to read to the end anyway.

The Stonehenge Legacy is touted as akin to The DaVinci Code, being "packed with codes, symbology, relentless suspense, and fascinating detail about the history of one of the world's most mysterious places". There's certainly some truth in that, both in terms of the 'ancient secrets uncovered' aspects, as well as the way Christer's writing, like Brown's, is a bit cringey at times.

The set-up is decent: the estranged son of a renowned treasure hunter is called home after his father commits suicide. If it was suicide. Nearby, a man is sacrificed by a hooded cabal in an ancient ritual. A local Wiltshire policewoman begins to wonder what is going on in her patch. Things don't fit.

Unfortunately for me (it may not bother other readers as much), Christer is overly fond of adjectives, depowering his prose and creating an eye-rolling rather than eye-popping effect to his characters and description. There's also a fair bit of 'on-the-nose' dialogue, all adding up to a bit of a 'cheesy' feel.

The underlying story is interesting though, and kept me turning the pages. I wanted to know what happened, even if I was frustrated with what the journey was compared to what it could have been. As I got further into the book, Christer's writing style didn't bother me so much - I'm not sure if it improved as the book picked up the pace and got deeper into the story, or I just adjusted.

I enjoyed learning more about Stonehenge and the Wiltshire area, and the 'secret society' stuff was pretty well constructed as it spiderwebbed throughout the story, and with some twists and reveals.

It's often said that the best books don't always make the best films, as you can't always translate much of what makes them great to the screen. Conversely, mediocre books can make good films, as it's the underlying story, atmosphere, and interesting characters that are used, and it doesn't matter if you lose the writing style of the author, or use different dialogue etc. That may be the case here. I could see The Stonehenge Legacy translating well to the screen, as there's an interesting cast of characters that could be brought to better, fuller life by actors. There is also plenty of action, mystery, and secrets that could possibly be even better onscreen than in the way Christer conveys them on the page.

Overall, this is a decent holiday or beach read. An airport thriller that definitely could be enjoyed by fans of Dan Brown or those who like films like National Treasure.

Craig Sisterson is a lapsed lawyer who writes features for leading magazines and newspapers in several countries. He has interviewed more than 180 crime writers, discussed crime writing onstage at literary festivals in Europe and Australasia, and on national radio and top podcasts, has been a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards, and is the Judging Convenor of the Ngaio Marsh Awards. You can follow him on Twitter: @craigsisterson

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