The Radix by Brett King
Reviewed by Karl Wolff
Brett King launches the reader into a world of intrigue, mystery and action with this novel. It follows the exploits of John Brynstone, an agent for the Special Collection Service (SCS). The SCS uses the technology of the National Security Agency and the cloak-and-dagger tradecraft of the Central Intelligence Agency to spy on suspicious targets and collect sensitive data threatening national security.
As usual, the SCS doesn’t officially exist. Brynstone possesses the combat skills of a CIA agent with a Ph.D. in paleopathology (the study of diseases in an archaeological setting). He also has a sexy sidekick, a tech-savvy babe named Jordan Rayne, and a cat named Banshee. Unfortunately, it’s the Christmas holiday season and Brynstone is on assignment to collect a rare artifact from the Saudi Ambassador.
The Radix belongs to that genre one can dub The Catholic Artifact Conspiracy. Like The Da Vinci Code and similar books, it has a plot surrounding a powerful artifact. In this case, it is the Radix, an ancient artifact with the power to heal or the power to kill. The artifact was once in possession of the Borgia family, a wealthy family that provided Italy with Popes, dukes, and princesses, along with enough historically documented crime, torture, mayhe, and perversion to keep the curious occupied for quite some time.
Once Brynstone and Jordan acquire the Radix, the reader is swept along on a roller-coaster ride of mystery and violence. We meet an insane former NSA cryptanalyst, the psychotic descendants of the Borgia clan, and the brother of the President up to no good. The Borgias want the Radix for their dark ends. Legend has it linked with the European Black Plague. The billionaire brother of the President wants it to revitalize a struggling pharmaceutical company. The NSA Director also wants it, but he’s not telling why.
The novel is packed with elaborate puzzles, riveting action sequences, and unexpected reversals. When a former German skinhead kidnaps John Brynstone’s family, things get personal. Will Brynstone save his family in time? Will the insane cryptanalyst and the psychology grad student unravel the puzzles relating to Carl Gustav Jung’s work on psychology and alchemy? Will the Borgias stop at nothing?
All these questions will be answered, but some things get left hanging, providing enough material for a rip-roaring sequel. Brett King, when not writing about rampaging Borgias and the suspicious shenanigans of the American intelligence community, works as a professor of psychology at the University of Colorado at Boulder. His credentials give the material on psychology a much needed authenticity. He also wrote a short Author’s Note at the end, separating the historical record from his fictional fabrications.3 stars.
Leisure, 2010, $7.99