The Lost Goddess: A Novel

( 13 )

Overview

“A globetrotting adventure with shades of Dan Brown and Indiana Jones.” —Suspense Magazine

In the silent caves of deepest France, young archaeologist Julia Kerrigan unearths an ancient skull with a hole bored through the forehead. Shortly after, her mentor is brutally murdered—by a seemingly supernatural killer. Meanwhile, in the jungle of Southeast Asia, photographer Jake Thirby undertakes a mysterious assignment for a beautiful Cambodian ...

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The Lost Goddess: A Novel

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Overview

“A globetrotting adventure with shades of Dan Brown and Indiana Jones.” —Suspense Magazine

In the silent caves of deepest France, young archaeologist Julia Kerrigan unearths an ancient skull with a hole bored through the forehead. Shortly after, her mentor is brutally murdered—by a seemingly supernatural killer. Meanwhile, in the jungle of Southeast Asia, photographer Jake Thirby undertakes a mysterious assignment for a beautiful Cambodian lawyer who is investigating mysterious findings at the two-thousand-year-old Plain of Jars.

Linking the two is a strange, demonic woman—dazzling in her physical prowess and unstoppable in her hunger for vengeance. A seductive blend of global adventure, gothic horror, and ripped-from-the-headlines science, The Lost Goddess is an edge-of-your-seat thriller with shocking revelations on the history of human violence and guilt.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for The Lost Goddess:

"Mr. Knox's speculations are good ones, making you wonder what might really have been going on in dictators' secret laboratories." — The Wall Street Journal

 
"How terrific to find a new thriller in which the dramatic action emerges from an exemplary mix of first-rate research, interesting politics and credible characters! A novel such as this really gives you hope for good reading at the end of a busy workday or during a trip." — The Dallas Morning News

 
“The Lost Goddess” is a globetrotting adventure with shades of Dan Brown and Indiana Jones....A page-turner." — Suspense Magazine

"This quirky novel from the pseudonymous Knox...combines elements of the best of several genres, shakes them up, then lays them out in surprisingly original patterns....Knox doles out enough tantalizing scientific, social, and spiritual lore to sate even the hungriest anthropological thriller reader." — Publishers Weekly

Praise for The Marks of Cain:
"Tom Knox knows the DNA of an astonishing thriller. The Marks of Cain...may well be the most controversial thriller since The Da Vinci Code." — Jeff Abbott, bestselling author of Adrenaline and The Last Minute
"An intriguing, well-told story." — Booklist

Praise for The Genesis Secret:

"[The Genesis Secret] makes one want to tear through the pages to find out what happens next." — The Dallas Morning News

Publishers Weekly
This quirky novel from the pseudonymous Knox (British journalist Sean Thomas) combines elements of the best of several genres, shakes them up, then lays them out in surprisingly original patterns. In an isolated cave in southern France, archeologist Julia Kerrigan discovers neolithic skeletons, the skulls of which show evidence of trepanation, holes deliberately bored in the middle of the foreheads. Meanwhile in Laos, photographer Jake Thurby and a beautiful Cambodian woman from Phnom Penh, Chemda Tek, are chasing a story with origins in the mysterious Plain of Jars. Subplots involve human and chimpanzee interbreeding, the horrific depredations of the Khmer Rouge, the Ice Age cave paintings of Lascaux, Khmer voodoo, mummified fetuses, and a plan by the Chinese to develop a super soldier. Along the way, Knox (The Genesis Secret) doles out enough tantalizing scientific, social, and spiritual lore to sate even the hungriest anthropological thriller reader. Agent: Jay Mandel. (Jan.)
Booklist
"[The Marks of Cain is] an intriguing, well-told story."
Jeff Abbott
"Tom Knox knows the DNA of an astonishing thriller. The Marks of Cain...may well be the most controversial thriller since The Da Vinci Code."
The Wall Street Journal
"Mr. Knox's speculations are good ones, making you wonder what might really have been going on in dictators' secret laboratories."
The Dallas Morning News
“[The Genesis Secret] makes one want to tear through the pages to find out what happens next.”
Suspense Magazine
The Lost Goddess is a globetrotting adventure with shades of Dan Brown and Indiana Jones....A page-turner."
Library Journal
What links two startling discoveries, a weathered skull with a hole neatly smacked through the forehead, found in a French cave, and something possibly creepier at Laos's 2000-year-old Plain of Jars? Modern-day forces clearly want the finds suppressed, and it all leads to one spooky and obsessed woman out to avenge a terrible wrong. Indiana Jones meets Grand Guignol, with a touch of Holmes-like puzzling. Knox is rumored to be building a dedicated audience, so keep an eye on this one.
Kirkus Reviews
After learning of the horrific crossbreeding experiments conducted by the Khmer Rouge during the '70s—and the international conspiracy of silence that surrounds those experiments still—a female archaeologist and male photographer have their lives threatened and their sanity questioned. Globetrotting young British photographer Jake Thurby is hoping to make a name for himself when he accepts a job from Chemda Tek, a beautiful and mysterious American-educated Cambodian investigating Khmer atrocities. American archaeologist Julia Kerrigan hopes the strange set of perforated skulls she uncovers at a dig in remote southern France will make her reputation. Several grotesque murders, horrendous acts of sorcery and bizarre sexual attacks later, the protagonists team up to confront the grisly truth. Told in cliffhanger style, one narrative interrupting the other at the most crucial moments, the book will do no favors for the tourist trade in Southeast Asia. Only Jake, who after falling for Chemda gets chased through the rugged terrain of Cambodia and Laos, has any reason to hang around. Knox (real name: Sean Thomas) has traveled this path before in The Marks of Cain (2010, etc.). If he recognizes the riotous absurdity of depressed, brain-drilled ape-men giving in to their animal desires, he doesn't let on. The book features two such attacks. Pure potboiler, with a little commentary about America's inconsistency in Southeast Asia sprinkled in, the book begins entertainingly enough but can't overcome its debt to Island of Lost Souls. Knox does shed some light on actual "hybridization" experiments ordered by Stalin, among other leaders. In the end, the Khmer massacres are too enormous in their inhumanity to function as the backdrop for a thriller.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452298989
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/24/2012
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 442,316
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

 Tom Knox is the pseudonym of the journalist Sean Thomas. He has traveled the globe writing for a variety of publications, including The Times (London), The Guardian, and The Daily Mail. He lives in London.

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Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION
In a cold, dark cave in a remote corner of southern France, aspiring American archeologist Julia Kerrigan makes a grisly discovery: a collection of ancient skulls with holes deliberately bored through their foreheads. Instead of being thrilled with her extraordinary find, Julia’s mentor, the brilliant but secretive Ghislaine Quoinelles, berates and abruptly fires her. Before Julia can learn the reason for her employer’s rash action, the man is dead—ripped apart by a seemingly superhuman creature bent on some obscure and terrible vengeance. Soon, another of her colleagues has also been brutally murdered, and Julia finds herself on the greatest quest of her life: a race not only to solve the killings, but also to thwart an international conspiracy to create a race of super–strong, morally indifferent soldiers. But even as she pursues the truth Julia is also running—from a past sexual indiscretion for which she can never quite forgive herself.

Meanwhile, half a world away in Laos, British photographer Jake Thurby, is consumed by guilt from an incident involving his sister. When he was seven, his younger sister Rebecca slipped her hand out of his and ran into the path of an automobile. A potential escape from the ever–present trauma of that incident arrives in the form of Chemda Tek, a beautiful Cambodian girl who enlists Jake’s help in solving the mystery of the ancient Laotian Plain of Jars. There, they discover skulls with similar wounds—and local authorities are none too pleased with their curiosity. Jake’s impromptu safari with Chemda leads to an unexpected romance—as well as to unspeakable danger. As the two adventurers track down their answers, they soon find that they, too, are being pursued, by a force no less deadly and implacable than the descendants of the Khmer Rouge, the Cambodian political faction that turned an entire country into a massive graveyard, the killing fields of fact and legend.

Unaware of each other, Julia and Jake are gradually being drawn together from opposite sides of the same international enigma, a frightful puzzle whose jagged pieces include a band of rogue left–wing scientists, experiments in human–animal hybridization, and fiendish experiments in personality–altering surgery. Along the sinister path that will eventually unite them, Julia and Jake will encounter a host of extraordinary horrors: a fire bombing; a spider–eating witch; a transgender serial killer; a sexually inappropriate orangutan. When the two of them at last come together, it may already be too late for them to stop the greatest calamity of them all: a surgical procedure that may put an end to human personality as we know it.

A heart–pounding tale, relentlessly paced, and surprisingly keen in its philosophical and political commentary, The Lost Goddess takes the genre of the thriller into virtually unknown territory. A true rollercoaster of a novel, it takes its readers to the pinnacles of horror and the depths of human guilt and despair—and, remarkably, lets them off somewhere in the general vicinity of God. The Lost Goddess is truly an unforgettable ride.

ABOUT TOM KNOX

“Tom Knox” is the nom de plume of Sean Thomas, novelist and international journalist. Of the works he has written under his own name, Thomas is best known for his internet–dating memoir, Millions of Women Are Waiting to Meet You. Thomas’ two previous thriller novels, both bestsellers with archeological themes, areThe Genesis Secret and Marks of Cain. He lives in London.

A CONVERSATION WITH TOM KNOX
Q. Tom Knox is, as we know, a pseudonym. What advantages do you find as a writer in using an alter ego?

It allows me to escape the reputation—good and bad—that I had as writer/journalist Sean Thomas. As you say, probably my best known work as Sean Thomas is the love–life memoir Millions of Women are Waiting to Meet You. This was quite a bestseller—it’s been translated into eight languages—but it’s also very, very different to a thriller.

If I’d written thrillers under the same name Sean Thomas, then readers might have been shocked by the rather wrenching transition: from discussions of dating etiquette and sexual disasters—to archaeological mystery and religious intrigue.

Plus I just like the name Tom Knox. It suits the genre.

Q. The Lost Goddess is dedicated to the villagers of Balagezong, the scene of the novel’s climactic chapters. What do these people mean to you, and why did you dedicate your book to them?

Balagezong, like most places in my thrillers, is a real location. I try to include as much reality and authenticity in my books as possible so the reader can think “Hmm, this might have actually happened.”

The tiny village of Balagezong is on top of a mountain in a remote part of Tibetan Yunnan in southwest China. It is surrounded by jungled gorges and snow–capped Himalayan peaks. When I got there, they had just completed the road up to the village a few days before; previously it took weeks of walking to get from this little village to “civilization”.

I therefore believe I was one of the first westerners to visit this wildly inaccessible place, a place so cut–off it has its own tiny language—a strange version of Tibetan.

Balagezong is so beautiful it made me cry. Indeed I had an epiphany—a meeting with the divine, a vision of God—as I stood by the stupa with the quietly fluttering prayer–flags—or “wind–horses.” Maybe it was the puer–cha tea, maybe it was the high altitude, but I truly felt something there.

The dedication is my way of saying thanks for this experience—and my way of expressing gratitude to the hospitable Tibetans of Bala village, who have suffered a lot, like many Tibetans, and many Chinese, in the last sixty years.

Q. One can only have written a book like The Lost Goddess after having done a lot of traveling. What personal experiences of travel figured most prominently for you in the writing of The Lost Goddess?

Cambodia, Cambodia, Cambodia.

I love southeast Asia and have travelled there widely in the last two decades: and Cambodia haunts me like few other places. You walk the streets of the capital, Phnom Penh, and you rarely see old people—this is, of course, because so many of the older people have been taken away: murdered by the Khmer Rouge, the most bestial regime in history.

And yet Cambodia is also home to the most exquisite pre–industrial city on earth, Angkor: to my mind the most sublime ancient ruins in existence. This one tiny country, Cambodia, has therefore seen the best and worst of humanity. So it loomed large in my mind as I wrote the book.

Several other inspiring landscapes entered the book: Laos, and remote southern France, and even Bangkok at night. All extraordinary in their own way. I like to provide escapism in my books—to take readers somewhere exotic.

Q. Although travel has shaped you powerfully, there is evidence in The Lost Goddess that you are not overly fond of certain forms of tourism. Any thoughts?

Fifteen years ago I lived in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. Back then this city—the “rose” of Thailand—was a hushed, sweet little city of temples and canals and drowsy monks, where you could hear bicycles in the streets. Now it is a mini–Bangkok with traffic jams and supermarkets. It’s almost tragic.

And now you can sense the same thing happening to other beautiful little Indochinese towns, like Luang Prabang in Laos. Can we stop this before it is too late? UNESCO are trying, and good luck to them.

On the other hand some kinds of tourism create fascinating new towns from scratch; Vang Vieng in Laos is a good example. In the middle of the jungle is a small city built entirely, in the last few years, for young western backpackers to take drugs and go mad. Intense.

Q. As part of your research for this book, you ate a Cambodian tarantula. What was that like?

The thorax. Oh god the thorax—with the spider gunge inside. DO NOT EAT THE THORAX.

Q. The Lost Goddess contains some powerful, persuasive intellectual messages, touching on psychology, anthropology, politics, and religion. Yet you’ve chosen to present these messages within a sensationalist context that includes a spider–eating hag, a transgender serial killer, and a would–be rapist orangutan. What is the relationship between the serious content of your novel and its very powerful thriller elements, and how did you try to keep them in balance?

You’ve got to entertain. My first job as a novelist, I believe, is to entertain, to tell a good story, to get people hooked, to let them escape into a tale well told. So, yes, some of the characters and situations are quite lurid and highly–colored and I hope more entertaining thereby.

There is no shame in this. Look at Dickens: his books were full of vivid and carnivalesque characters; or look at Shakespeare—he had witches in Macbeth and ghosts in Hamlet.

But once you have a good, vivid plot there is nothing wrong with weaving in some very serious themes; in fact I am sure readers like them, they like to find out new facts, and think of the world in new ways—as long as they get a cracking story, too.

Q. You have garnered a reputation for writing scenes of violence and mayhem—off–putting to some, engrossing to others. What emotions do you yourself experience when writing these portions of your novels?

Violence is part of life, and I write stories that often centre on violent themes—sacrifice in The Genesis Secret, genocide inThe Marks of Cain, brutal tyranny in The Lost Goddess. It is hard to write a story about the Khmer Rouge and Chinese communism without including scenes of great violence.

I hope and believe they are not gratuitous. Also I write thrillers—and a thriller needs a little mustard to make it thrilling.

The only emotions I experience when writing these scenes are pleasure—if the writing is going well—or gloom—if the writing is going badly. That’s the case for all my writing.

Q. The Lost Goddess can be seen as an odyssey of faith. What has your own journey of belief and unbelief been like?

I used to be a teenage atheist. Now I believe. This belief comes and goes, like a radio signal on a fast drive through the hills, but it is always out there.

Q. Your novel appears at one point to link Zen Buddhism, which would strike many as a rather benign belief system, with the malignant nihilism of the Pol Pot regime. What was the point you were trying to make?

I believe societies need religion, in general, to prevent them slipping into despotism or cruelty or bleak materialism. Of course this does not exonerate religions per se—tens of millions have probably died in the name of “faith.”

But many more have died at the hands of atheist dictatorships—communist China, Maoist Cambodia, Nazi Germany, Stalin’s Russia. Why? Maybe there is something slightly inhuman about atheism? I certainly believe we are meant to believe, and science shows that our brains are probably “adapted” for faith—we are hard–wired for religiosity.

Take away even the possibility of faith and you have a recipe for terrible atrocities, as we flail around for alternatives.

Q. Near the end of The Lost Goddess, one of the characters, Dr. Fishwick, posits that atheism is “a form of dementia . . . a mental illness.” This comes as rather a shock in a novel in which the bad guys have felt roughly the same way about belief. Your novel displays vividly the horrors that might result from an attempt to “cure” religiosity. Doesn’t the implication atheism is an illness, and might also presumably be “cured,” reopen the can of worms from the other end?

Yes, that idea was meant to provoke. To get people thinking. As neurosurgery and genetic therapy, and our understanding of the brain, all evolve, we will be presented with dilemmas more acute than ever. For instance, we may discover a “cure” for homosexuality. But that presumes homosexuality is something we want to cure. My many gay friends would fiercely and understandably object to this notion.

This part of the book is meant to ask questions; I don’t always give answers.

Q. What are you working on now?

The next book is all about ritual magic and Italian crime and Egyptian history and yes, religion! I love writing about religion: and I believe people love reading about it. Why are we here? Who made us? Is there a God? These are the big questions. Big questions make for good, exciting thrillers—I hope.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • The lost goddess of Knox’s title is never expressly identified. What do you think the reference means, and how does it relate to the novel as a whole?
  • How did you respond to the political commentary in The Lost Goddess? How would you characterize Tom Knox’ political ideas, and to what extent do they resonate with your own?
  • The personalities of the novel’s two main characters, Jake and Julia, are, to an extent, shaped by their professions. Are there ways, beyond the mere articulation of the plot, in which it is especially appropriate for Jake to be a photographer and for Julia to be an archeologist?
  • Imagine that Soriya has been brought to justice for her violent crimes and that you are a public defender who is obliged to argue for clemency on her behalf. What arguments would you make? Would you expect them to succeed? Why or why not?
  • Tom Knox is known for writing vivid scenes of violence. How did you react to the more graphic scenes in the novel? What lines, if any, does Knox cross in The Lost Goddess?
  • What are Knox’s views regarding western intrusions into the Far East, whether via the military, tourism, or economic expansion? Do you agree with him?
  • Who, in your opinion, is the hero of The Lost Goddess? What arguments support your judgment?
  • Both Jake and Julia are driven and haunted by a self–accusation that dominates their back stories. What is Knox’ philosophy with respect to guilt and the role in plays in human character?
  • Knox’ novel is not gentle in its treatment of atheists. How did you respond to this aspect of the novel? Which do you find more important to a civilized society: religious faith or toleration of dissent? Why?
  • Imagine that you are the director of a film version of The Lost Goddess. What scene would you most like to film, and how, specifically, would you film it?
  • The Lost Goddess imagines and morally condemns the use of surgical procedures to make people better adjusted to life in a particular society. Do you agree that such uses of medicine should be out of bounds? If so, then what about other, less invasive treatments, like electric shock or psychoactive drug therapy? Where do you draw the line? According to what principle?
  • Readers may disagree as to whether The Lost Goddess is a pessimistic novel or a fundamentally optimistic one. Which side would you take in such a debate, and why?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2.5
( 13 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 3, 2012

    Interesting

    Review: The Lost Goddess by Tom Knox
    4 STARS
    I have mixed views on this book. Their is a lot of history in here that I really did not know about. All the violence of the past is painful, scary and the numbers are hard to believe. But if we do not learn from the past we will repeat it.
    The mystery and suspense some of it or a lot of the science bits I did not totally understand and I really hope that part if pure fiction but know some is probably true.
    Their are two parts of the story and how they switched threw me some and had to realize that they had switched again.
    Julia was a archaeolgist working in a cave underground in France at the begining. I liked her but wanted more emotion from her. I felt a little detached from her. She was trying to put the pieces together and came up with a theory.
    Jake was a photographer who was working on photos for a coffee book when he wanted to find out more of what was happened in the past That Chemda was trying to uncover in Cambodia. So Jake went with her to the Plain of Jars and their escape to figure out the past and stay alive began.
    I had a hard time caring about Jake and Chemda I don't know if it was I could not totally escape into the book or if just a bad day for me to connect. I am thinking it was because I was more concerned about the real victims in the history of the region that I could not enjoy the book more.
    I know that I want to know more of the region history and have already looked up and read more about the Plain of Jars. The history and the discriptions of the region were real and I could envision it.
    02/02/2012 PUB
    Penguin Group, USA

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 17, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    The Lost Goddess starts out interestingly enough, with an archae

    The Lost Goddess starts out interestingly enough, with an archaeological
    discovery in a French cave, followed by a mysterious assault in the
    dying artificial light deep underground. For me, that opening scene was
    the highlight of the novel, which is a definite problem - that level of
    tension and suspense is simply never recaptured anywhere else within the
    story. A lot of the action seemed to be mere padding, such as the
    extended tangent of police chases and family squabbles that nearly
    brought the middle of the book to a halt. What I had hoped would be a
    fun archaeological adventure (akin to Matthew Reilly), though, and was
    even willing to accept as yet another pale imitation of Dan Brown,
    simply got bogged down by way more religious fanaticism and politics
    than I cared to wade through. Where it completely lost my interest was
    with its heavy-handed approach in equating 'faith' with all that is good
    and pure in the world, and 'atheism' with all that is evil and cruel.
    There is actually a line towards the end of the novel where one of the
    characters calls atheism "a form of dementia . . . a mental
    illness." It's a shame, because the Hands of Gargas and the Plain
    of Jars are definitely unique MacGuffins to explore, and there are hints
    of competent writing here. If only the the history hadn't been wasted in
    info-dumps, and then overshadowed by the social/political commentary and
    religious fanaticism, it could have been an average thriller.
    All-in-all, a rather disappointing read, and an author I certainly don't
    care to revisit.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2012

    The Lost Color by Numbers

    Knox takes the rich vein of 70's marxists and the Khmer Rouge and cranks out a trite, predictable pot boiler with " twists" at the end that will make you want to chuck the book against the nearest wall.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2012

    The worse novel I have ever read. This book was so boring it to

    The worse novel I have ever read. This book was so boring it took me a month to get through it. The characters would have to be superheroes to get out of all the trouble they found themselves in, and they must have had millions of dollars to be able to travel all over the world to get into more boring trouble.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 18, 2013

    Although the author mixes the real historical details of Cambodi

    Although the author mixes the real historical details of Cambodia and archeology, and knows his technical information, the plot is so unbelievable, its hard to swallow. Almost have to read it like science fiction. The story finally became so outlandish, I simply couldn't finish the book. Totally beyond any resemblance of plausibility. Waste of time.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 10, 2012

    BEWARE of this book,,,,,it's the same book as Bible of the Dead

    BEWARE of this book,,,,,it's the same book as Bible of the Dead by Tom Knox -- just a new title and a little editing!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2014

    Still worth a read

    While not my favorite book by Tom Knox, I don't share the harsh opinion of other readers. The link of several often obscure real elements into one narrative is certainly strained and far-fetched at times, and it!s sometimes hard to believe that these characters could survive all their adventures. Also, this author is not for readers who are squeamish. However, I always find his work interesting and his descriptions compelling enough that I think about the places and ideas presented long after I finish the books. Bible of the Dead is a much better title than The Lost Goddess.

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  • Posted March 8, 2014

    While the story line was interesting, the writing style was so a

    While the story line was interesting, the writing style was so awful that I was angry to have wasted my money on it. I was caught up in at first, but I kept wondering how this hack ever got to publish a number of books. I just couldn't force myself to get through the last quarter of the book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted April 14, 2012

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    Posted March 11, 2012

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    Posted October 24, 2011

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    Posted May 11, 2012

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    Posted March 17, 2012

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