In one of my November 2018 columns I reviewed “Flight of the Fox,” the first book in Gray Basnight’s Sam Teagarden series. He has recently published the second installment in this political/semi-techno series. Basnight is a past participant in Mystery Fest Key West, which unfortunately like so many other events had to be canceled this year due to the pandemic.
This latest book was inspired by reality. The “Q” is a shortened name for The Quelle (German for “source”), a theorized missing source for much of the New Testament’s Matthew and Luke. In Basnight’s novel, it becomes more than a mere theory. It becomes real when it is discovered in a decrypted parchment during an archaeological dig in Israel. What it may impart could possibly repudiate the foundations of Christianity. This sets off a mass frenzy that pits the FBI and CIA against opponents as diverse as the Vatican and an international killer, atheist cult that calls itself Freedom From God (FFG). Each has its own agenda that varies from releasing the document to burying it forever, and each will stop at nothing to win.
Sam Teagarden is caught in the middle, a crossfire between mercenary killers and equally lethal zealots after he is recruited to try to validate the Q’s authenticity. Sam, the protagonist of the series, is a college professor of advanced mathematics who has an expertise in cryptology. He is a somewhat unlikely hero. He’s a quiet-living, middle-aged, nonathletic academician. But he also can be a calm, clear-thinking and inventive individual when danger forces him to be. While he might not be daring and adventuresome, he does have some skills like target shooting that he can call on in an emergency. As in the first book, I found him to be a likable character who wore well over the course of the book.
The scope of the book is truly international. It takes the reader from New York to Israel and then to Rome and Berlin as Teagarden tries to outsmart and stay one step ahead of his various pursuers. He is never quite sure who to trust since friends easily become enemies and vice versa. It is a fast-moving plot with surprises and challenges constantly presenting themselves. I found some of his descriptions of recent drone technology to be fascinating. The only criticism I had was the same one I noted in my review of “Flight of the Fox.” The checking-in-darling emails to his wife back home sometimes seemed unnecessary and slowed down the hectic pace of the story. I found myself more times than not skimming over them to get back to plot. I think it would be fair to compare the story to a Dan Brown or Robert Ludlum book. The editing was good. I only saw one typo. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since Basnight has spent most of his adult life as part of New York’s writing community, having been a broadcast news writer, an editor, a producer and a reporter.
I found the book to be an easy read that kept my interest all the way through. I read it in three sessions in my pool (my outside office). By the way, Key West’s Aaron Wechter makes a cameo appearance in the book.
Reviewed by David Beckwith, author of ‘A Demonic Conspiracy.’