Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Book Review: The Spider Stone - Rogue Angel #3 by Alex Archer

In this third Rogue Angel book, I think the series finally hits its stride.  Don't get me wrong - the first two books were good and I really enjoyed them.  But this installment of the series feels very solid.  I think Mel Odom (this book's ghost writer) has Annja's personality and how she would react in various situations firmly zeroed in, and the story weaves together a good blend of history, mythology, action, and mystery to give us a very interesting read.

In brief, the bodies of a number of escaped Civil War-era slaves are found in the basement of a long-abandoned warehouse.  Annja Creed, our heroine, is asked to come and investigate the scene from an archaeological perspective along with a local professor and a handful of eager college students.  But what gets the ball rolling on the whole mystery is that one of the slaves was in possession of The Spider Stone, an African artifact of the Hausa people, a tribe favored (supposedly) by Anansi, the Spider God.  The Stone supposedly represents a promise from Anansi to the Hausa people that as long as their tribe is in possession of the stone, they will never die out.

Even more interesting, and what really kicks things off, the Stone is supposedly a map to a fabulous treasure hidden somewhere in the Hausa people's ancient tribal lands.  A number of factions - some good, some definitely not good - begin moving to find the Stone and therefore find the treasure.  An African warlord, a Homeland Security investigator, Annja, her archaeological entourage, and a number of other people get sucked into the mix, eventually traveling to Africa in search for this treasure.  Some of Annja's old acquaintances make an appearance, and some new ones come along - this book definitely has a full and flavorful cast of characters.

Of the three Rogue Angel titles so far, The Spider Stone feels the most like an Indiana Jones movie.  If you blended together elements from Raiders of the Lost Ark and Last Crusade, you'd get a very good feel for the sort of treasure hunting vibe this book radiates, and it makes it a lot of fun.  Thrown into the mix is a lot of interesting history and folklore, some no doubt manufactured for the novel, some based on actual mythology.  But it is the interweaving of fact and fiction, story and myth, that makes this book work.  This is the sort of thing that The X-Files would get "just right" in its best episodes, and I hope that this trend continues in future Rogue Angel installments.

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