Tom Harper (real name Edwin Thomas) won the CWA debut award in 2001 for The Blighted Cliffs. He also wrote The Mosaic of Shadows, Knights of the Cross, and Siege of Heaven, published by Random House
Edwin Thomas grew up in West Germany, Belgium and America before returning to England to study history at Lincoln College, Oxford. His conclusion to the short story ‘Death by the Invisible Hand’ was published in The Economist in 1997, and the first chapter of The Blighted Cliffs was runner-up in the 2001 Crime Writers’ Association Début Dagger Award for new fiction. The first two installments of the adventures of Martin Jerrold, The Blighted Cliffs and The Chains of Albion, are available in Bantam paperback.
I have never written down the answers to the deepest mysteries, nor will I ever…The philosopher Plato wrote these words more than two thousand years ago, following a perilous voyage to Italy — an experience about which he never spoke again, but from which he emerged the greatest thinker in all of human history. Today, twelve golden tablets sit in museums around the world, each created by unknown hands and buried in ancient times, and each providing the dead with the route to the afterlife. Archaeologist Lily Barnes, working on a dig in southern Italy, has just found another. But this tablet names the location to the mouth of hell itself. And then Lily vanishes. Has she walked out on her job, her marriage, and her life — or has something more sinister happened? Her husband, Jonah, is desperate to find her. But no one can help him: not the police and not the secretive foundation that sponsored her dig. All Jonah has is belief, and a determination to do whatever it takes to get Lily back. But like Plato before him, Jonah will discover the journey ahead is mysterious and dark and fraught with danger. And not everyone who travels to the hidden place where Lily has gone can return.
I was really not sure what to expect with Orpheus Descent, I have to admit to owning all of Tom Harpers Books and reading none (until now). They languish in my mountainous TBR (to be read) pile.
So this was always going to be a new experience of style and plot. That said I’m a big fan of well written time-slip books, the interplay of differing era’s, attitudes and people if done right can be fantastic.
Add to the above my love of ancient Greece, thrillers and the glowing praise filtering through on Twitter, what choice did I have but to make Orpheus Descent my first Tom Harper read.
Firstly I need to add that I did read the short story “Twelfth Tablet” (Buy the book) that acts as a teaser for this book. For anyone not sure of Tom Harpers writing, go read this, it had me hooked from page one. It is however a teaser for the modern era side of the time-slip tale only but gives a great insight into Greek tycoon who acts as principle antagonist in both stories.
The main thrust of the plot follows the two distinct and yet gradually blurring timelines. In modern Greece Lilly an archaeologist goes missing, her husband who has utter faith in his relationship and wife knows she has not run out on him and sets out to find her, battling inner demons and the voices of family and friends who all tell him that she has just left him, he knows something isn’t right, and he will stop at nothing to find her again.
In the alternate plot-line Plato leaves Greece for Italy, to search for his friend Agathon. That simple voyage turns into a life and death series of mishaps, misfortune, and calamity that tests the great philosopher’s will, beliefs and view of the world, making him challenge all he holds dear, his vision of the world and his place in it.
I think there will be some who struggle with Plato’s side of this story, it does get very involved in the differences of philosophical types, eg: sophistry and Plato’s view of it. It covers many myths and the thinking of the classical man. But while for me this slowed the pace of the plot, it also gave it a very very different edge and a much greater depth. It made me think which isn’t the norm for treasure hunter/ thriller plot. I used (online) the description that the book “Thrills and messes with your mind in equal measure”, and it really did. The philosophical elements made you stop and contemplate what was meant, what was hidden, what was the meaning behind it. Writing this review is making me stop and re-examine some of the points of the book and its meaning all over again. I think you could re-read the book and find something new every time. The story is very much a product of you the reader, at the time you read it, in the emotion that you read it in (as much as what was written by the author). As the readers position is a changeable position/ emotion so your view and enjoyment of the book I think will change, and what you take away from it… see …it messed with my head!
So do I recommend it… Of course. Any book that you can read again and again is right up there on the go read it list. Just go in with an open and inquisitive mind.
1. The Mosaic of Shadows (2004)
2. Knights of the Cross (2005)
3. Siege of Heaven (2006)
The Book of Secrets (2009)
The Lazarus Vault (2010)
Secrets of the Dead (2011)
Books as Edwin Thomas
1. The Blighted Cliffs (2003)
2. Chains of Albion (2004)
3. Treason’s River (2006)