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The Witch of Babylon

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  • Posted October 21, 2012

    Past and Present Merge in a Fast-Paced Art Thriller

    When I got my copy of THE WITCH OF BABYLON, I opened to the first page expecting a historical thriller along the lines of Steven Saylor. But I quickly realized that the book begins in modern-day New York City in the rarefied art world. "Oh, this is going to be good," I thought, and I didn't have time to think after that because I became so quickly drawn into the book, with its heady mixture of antiquities, ancient and modern theft, and present-day murder. I can't think of too many writers who have managed to merge two genres - mystery and thriller - with as much panache as D.J. McIntosh does in THE WITCH OF BABYLON.

    I always think of thrillers as being strong on plot and mysteries/crime fiction as being strong on character. THE WITCH OF BABYLON is strong on both. McIntosh writes in first person as John Madison, a low-key guy who gets drawn into events way beyond his control. I was touched by John's relationship with his older brother, who'd spent much of his life looking out for John, and it's the memories of this relationship that help John grow as he becomes embroiled in the search for antiquities and the answers to ancient riddles.

    But, for me at least, McIntosh's major accomplishment is the seamless blending of past and present into a novel with not only immediacy but also heart. The balance between scholarship/history and pulse-pounding story is just about perfect; you learn as you go, without ever feeling that you're being lectured to or reading a history textbook. McIntosh has the soul of an artist and a historian... She moves beyond the politics of the Iraq invasion and subsequent war to express sympathy and understanding for the people who are trying to preserve the culturally significant artifacts of ancient Mesopotamia/Assyria.

    I'm sure comparisons to THE DA VINCI CODE will abound. I enjoyed that book, too, but as I read it, it remained firmly in the realm of "100% fiction - a completely alternate history - a fast-paced ride with a lot of puzzles to solve." In contrast, when reading THE WITCH OF BABYLON, I sometimes wondered if I was reading nonfiction, because it all seemed so plausible and real, right down to the character of John Madison, who's more flesh-and-blood than Robert Langdon. I understand that a sequel to THE WITCH is in the works. If it's only half as good as THE WITCH OF BABYLON, I'll be more than happy.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted February 24, 2013

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    Posted October 6, 2014

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