Friday, September 25, 2015

The Spider In the Laurel - by Michael Pogach - Part Indiana Jones and part dystopian fiction that reads like The Da Vinci Code

4 of 5 Stars     Review copy

Michael Pogach is an English professor and author. He began writing stories in grade school. He doesn't remember these early masterpieces, but his parents tell him everyone in them died. He's gained some humanity since then, even allowing characters to survive once in a while. He is a graduate of Penn State and Arcadia University. His stories have appeared in numerous journals and the chapbook Zero to Sixty. The Spider in the Laurel is his first novel.

The Spider in the Laurel is quite impressive for a debut novel. Rafael Ward teaches at a University and he also happens to be an agent for the Relic Enforcement Command, commonly referred to as the REC. protect and defend the Citizens of the Republic against domestic threats both civil and fanatical, to uphold and enforce the criminal laws of the United Republic, and to guarantee the purity of our nation against all artifacts of zealotry.

Relic Enforcement Command Mission Statement, 2016.

"Agents of the REC, even conscripts like Ward, were sworn for life...All Ward wanted was to be a professor again."

I generally don't care much for alternate history stories, but although that is a part of this one, it is so much more.  Alternate history, dystopian future, and a protagonist that reads like Robert Langdon in a Dan Brown novel.  I was instantly caught up in the intrigue.

Sent on a mission to obtain "the Spear of Destiny". The lance with which a Roman soldier supposedly stabbed Jesus at the crucifixion.  A weapon that conquerors had sought and killed for over the many centuries before the Republic's Edict Seven legislated that there was no power residing in the sky."

When things don't go exactly as planned, Ward is thrown into a much greater mystery where he no longer knows truth from fiction, right from wrong, or even up from down.

I found the fairy-tale which provided the book's title to be an absolute delight and I really came to like Rafael "Rafe" Ward.  He is a terrific, flawed character, thrown into situations of great peril and manages to, time and again, narrowly escape death and continue on a quest that could possibly save the world.

There were some weaknesses, like how, not once, but twice, characters were able to "guess' four-digit passwords in a matter of minutes.  (1 in 10,000, not likely).  And there were a couple of plot twists which were entirely too convenient.  These elements aside, I found The Spider In the Laurel to be a fast-paced, thrilling adventure, that was totally unexpected and ultimately enjoyable.

The Spider In the Laurel is published by Ragnarok publications and is available now as an e-book with a paperback version coming soon.

A fun read I can easily recommend.

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