Jason E. Thummel is the author of a number of well received heroic fantasy short stories (many collected in the book In Savage Lands). I’d read several of them, so when the opportunity to review his first novel came along, I jumped at the chance. (I’d like to thank the author for providing the review copy.)
Unlike the stories I’d read previously, The Spear of Destiny isn’t heroic fantasy, at least not in the traditional sense. Rather I think it falls into the genre of occult detective. Lance Chambers, the viewpoint character, isn’t like other occult detectives, though. He doesn’t work magic, and his knowledge of magic and his abilities are therefore limited. Rather he has to get help in the magical arena from others. In the mundane arena, he survives by his brain, his brawn, his stubbornness, and his smart mouth.
I liked him a lot.
The story opens with Chambers being hired by someone high up in Helmsden Enterprises to find two researchers who have disappeared in the jungle in South America. The researchers, husband and wife, were working on some type of research involving twins.
Chambers packs his bag, tells his attractive associate Sam (short for Samantha) goodbye and heads out. Before he can even leave his building, there’s an attempt on his life.
Things go downhill from there. When he arrives in Brazil, he finds himself at a remote research station, not the urban airport he was told he’d be flying to. (He took a Helmsden Enterprises plane.) He’s met by a stunningly beautiful and cold woman named Isabel Mao de Ferro. She informs him there will be a boat to take him upriver the next morning and that he’ll be spending the night at the research station.
It proves to be a very unrestful night. Zombie attacks tend to have that affect on one’s slumber.
And that’s all the synopsis you’ll get out of me. There were several twists in this one, and I don’t want to spoil any of them for you. I will say this, though; the Spear of Destiny in the title does play a major role in events. In case you don’t know, the Spear of Destiny was the spear thrust into Jesus’ side as he hung on the cross. Hitler was enamored of it. Knowing that should make you suspect there will be Nazis showing up at some point. Well, that and the cover illustration.
Overall this was a highly enjoyable book. Thummel does a good job of mixing the traditional private eye tropes with fantasy to craft a highly readable and entertaining supernatural thriller.
Chambers is a complex character, and Thummel only begins to explore the depths of his character. He had a partner at one time, but something happened and his partner died during a case. Chambers is still dealing with this. I’m hoping later volumes will explore this in greater depth. There’s already a sequel out.
Of even greater interest is Chambers relationship with Samantha. He’s highly attracted to her, and the implications are that the attraction is mutual. Chambers got involved with a coworker previously, and it ended badly. It’s not too hard to understand that he’s a little gun shy about getting involved with another coworker. But a girl can’t wait around forever. Sam has a boyfriend, Bret, which is a source of irritation to Chambers. And later, when the action returns to the States from South America, Bret becomes integral to the plot.
This one was a lot of fun. There are zombies, Nazis, ancient relics of great power, two (count ‘em, two) femme fatales, escapes, dangerous jungle fauna, dangerous urban fauna (the two legged variety), wisecracks, weird things going on with twins, conspiracies, and possibly the end of the world.
The dialogue moves the story along, the characters have depth, the prose flows smoothly. The femme fatales are scary (especially Isabel) in their ruthlessness, and the masterminds behind everything are just short of over the top crazy. Overall, a well-written and entertaining novel. The only thing that I had a problem with was timing. There were a couple of places I lost track of time. If I understood things properly (and I admit that I might not have), I didn’t see how Chambers could get from here to there in the allotted time frame, or how so many thing could happen within a day. A couple of times I wasn’t sure what day it was. You know, the Is-it-still-Friday-or-is-it-Saturday sort of thing.
Other than that, I really enjoyed the novel. I’ll be reading the sequel.
As is normally the case, I read this one in electronic format. I found there to be no trouble with the formatting. There were no weird page breaks like I’ve seen in other electronic books. The only complaint I have about the formatting is that the table of contents isn’t interactive. I can go to the title page, copyright page, dedication, first chapter, or excerpt of the sequel. What I couldn’t do was go directly to a particular chapter. It makes jumping back to check a previous chapter for clues or foreshadowing a bit of a hassle.
In spite of a few quibbles, I recommend The Spear of Destiny to anyone who enjoys occult detectives or supernatural thrillers.