It has been a been a little while since I posted to my blog…all for a good reason. I have dedicated most of my spare time to the completion of Black Flagged Redux, the second book in my Black Flagged series. More details will follow. For now, I want to share my review of Russell Blake’s new thriller, The Voynich Cypher. Russell is by far one of my favorite authors, and his new book takes the artifact hunting/thriller genre to a new level. Enjoy.
“Russell Blake comes out of the gate strong in 2012, with The Voynich Cypher, a refreshingly unique and thrilling addition to a genre worn thin over the past decade. As with all Blake novels, the plot accelerates rapidly, and cleverly devised twists hide around every corner, leaving the reader in a constantly satisfied state of suspense. The Voynich Cypher reintroduces Dr. Steven Cross (formerly Archer) from Blake’s critically acclaimed trilogy serial, Zero Sum.
After narrowly escaping with his life and a tidy sum of money, Archer assumes a new identity as Steven Cross and decides to spend the rest of his life pursuing less dangerous hobbies along the Italian coast. One of those hobbies, the study of cryptology, becomes an obsession for a technical mind like Cross’. Like every cryptologist in the world, he is fascinated by the Voynich Manuscript, an medieval parchment written wholly in indecipherable code centuries ago, and rumored to hold the key to a secret that could devastate the Catholic Church. All of his high tech attempts to unlock the code have failed, but one of his amateur theories have piqued the interest of the world’s premier Voynich expert, Winston Twain. When Twain is found dead with one of Cross’ letters on his desk, his innocent obsession with the Voynich Manuscript takes a deadly turn, as two ruthless and unstoppable factions compete to find him.
Russell Blake turns this genre upside down with The Voynich Cypher. In a cross between a modern-day Raiders of the Lost Ark and a high-tech Da Vinci Code, Blake brings strong, capable characters to a genre normally dominated by inept, pensive professors and confused female sidekicks. Outgunned and fighting against overwhelming odds, it is a delight to watch Steven Cross and Natalie Twain physically battle their way across Italy, while applying an equal level of rigorous, intellectual discipline to unraveling a series of clues related to the Voynich mystery. I thoroughly enjoyed the realistic interaction between these characters, and the development of their relationship throughout the story.
In terms of literary qualities, Blake’s descriptions of ancient Roman sites, Venice and the Tuscan country-side are luxuriously handled, bringing the reader right into each scene, where the action and tension is palpable. Still, at no point did the descriptions seem onerous or distracting, which is a difficult balance for any author to achieve. Blake has developed this skill considerably over the span of several books, culminating in this book with some of the most immersive scenes I’ve experienced in years.
The most satisfying element of this book is the end. Without giving it away, let me say that you will not be lead to the precipice of discovery, only to have the camera fade away while the characters nod their heads. Blake gives the reader what they have desperately sought in this genre for years…a close look at exactly what the characters have endured hell to discover. The Voynich Cypher was a pleasure to read on every level.”