After having put together a brief synopsis of Codex for my 2010 Christmas books list, I felt that this book deserved a more detailed review. I must admit that I tend not to read many thrillers as they often seem to lack in substance and feel like the equivalent of mindless TV, except that I have to put in a time consuming and often un-enjoyable reading shift. Add to that the fact that I have a seemingly endless and constantly growing to-read pile and I hope you can sympathise with my not usually being, um, thrilled at the prospect of reading crime and suspense books. (I feel better already having gotten that off my chest.)
Back to the book. Adrian Dawson’s techno-thriller, Codex, opens with Jack Bernstein’s estranged daughter, Lara, flying from Europe to the US to see her father for the first time in a long time. Dawson doesn’t reveal where she has been but a sense of mystery is immediately evident. Unfortunately, Lara never gets to see her father because an apparent terrorist attack cuts her journey, and life, short. My initial reaction was that, perhaps, it was a bit too early to kill of what must surely be one of the most important characters. However, as I continued to read, I was left with the impression that there is a reason for everything that Dawson does (and doesn’t do). Perhaps the chess analogy which underpins this book – Jack Bernstein is an old chess master, his search for his daughter’s killer turns into a global game of chess, etc – is also the best way to describe the author’s writing: every idea is well thought out and executed.
Jack’s quest to find his daughter’s killer leads him to discoveries he would never have thought possible: about himself, his daughter and his wife, who died years earlier. The book, and the author, slowly gathers pace, getting better as the story unfolds and new characters are introduced. As I mentioned in my original synopsis, the characters are well developed and believable, enabling the reader to get truly engaged with the story. Monks, FBI agents and conniving personas all feature and drive the plot along nicely.
Although, at times, the book is slightly unconvincing when it dabbles in the realms of science fiction, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it is to the detriment of the overall story. The religious theme that runs throughout the book will inevitably lead to comparisons with The Da Vinci Code. This probably isn’t as bad a thing as most people would have you believe as it is still one of the all time bestselling books, meaning that something about religious cults and secrets obviously seems to entice a wide audience. I stress, though, that I would hate for anyone to think that this is merely Dan Brown in some sort of science fiction disguise because that would be doing a grave injustice to the author, Dawson, whose writing is very elegant and often poetic, something I would never say about Brown.
I am not sure if this book is enough to make thrillers my new favourites, but it certainly highlights everything that can be good about this genre. It is fast paced and plot driven; enticing and entertaining; intelligent and interesting; suspenseful and surprising in equal measure. Not quite a must-read, but in my opinion, as far as thrillers are concerned, choose not to read it at your own peril…
First posted on The Ran$om Note which covers everything from cutting edge music reviews to dog walking blogs, art, culture and new world musings.