Welcome to readers on DJ Niko’s blog tour for The Tenth Saint. I was lucky enough to have this book on holiday with me, and it was the ideal poolside companion. Desperate to escape the seventeenth century for a few weeks, I plunged into this adventure and was rewarded with a complex, fast-moving thriller with a mystery at its heart, one that took me effortlessly from Cambridge to Addis Abbiba.
‘Cambridge archaeologist Sarah Weston makes an unusual discovery in the ancient Ethiopian mountain kingdom of Aksum: a sealed tomb with inscriptions in an obscure dialect. Seeking to ascertain the translation and the identity of the entombed man, she and her colleague, American anthropologist Daniel Madigan, stumble upon a lethal conflict. Tracking down clues in Addis Ababa and the monasteries of Lalibela, Sarah and Daniel uncover a codex in a subterranean library revealing a set of prophecies about Earth’s final hours written by a man hailed by Coptic mystics as Ethiopia’s tenth saint. Violently opposed by the corrupt director of antiquities at the Ethiopian Ministry of Culture and Tourism, they’re left for dead in the heart of the Simien Mountains. Surviving to journey to Paris, Sarah is given another piece of the ancient puzzle: a fourteenth-century letter describing catastrophic events leading to the planet’s demise. Connecting the two discoveries, Sarah faces a deadly intercontinental conspiracy to keep the secret of the tenth saint buried. Risking her reputation and her life, Sarah embarks on a quest to stall the technological advances that will surely destroy the world.’
The description of the novel is reminiscent of something that might have been written by Dan Brown, but this novel is better researched – the excellent writing makes the suspension of disbelief easy, so that the disparate aspects of the plot hang together in a wholly credible way. The main protagonist, Sarah, is a likeable mix of feisty adventurer and romantic dreamer. The character of Daniel Maligan (her UNESCO ally) makes a fine foil for her, a sort of modern-day Indiana Jones, but the character that really stood out for me was the 4th century Gabriel. In his scenes the novel slowed and Niko was able to showcase her writing craft to build atmosphere – ‘the tribe stayed in the basalt lands to wait out the winter…’
The novel has a very enjoyable sense of the desert, its heat, parched terrain – deadly scorpions included. The Earth’s ecology versus technology is also an underlying theme in the book. The other aspect of the novel I found fascinating was the interweaving of Coptic mysticism and philosophy as Sarah tries to uncover for herself whether the Tenth Saint of the Ethiopians was real or just a myth. The ending has several twists, but is also left open for the next instalment which I hope is as enjoyable as the first.
The paperback copy of this book is beautifully produced with lovely typography, reproduction of hand-written notes, and the coptic cross under-printed on every page.
Summary: Excellent escapism, beautifully written and produced book. My copy is now going on loan to my daughter who I am sure will love it.
Please do stop by tomorrow when D J Niko will join me to talk about why the ancient world matters today.