Ayesha Ryder bears the scars of strife in the Middle East. Now her past is catching up to her as she races to unravel a mystery that spans centuries—and threatens to change the course of history.
As Israeli and Palestinian leaders prepare to make a joint announcement at the Tower of London, an influential scholar is tortured and murdered in his well-appointed home in St. John’s Wood. Academic researcher Ayesha Ryder believes the killing is no coincidence. Sir Evelyn Montagu had unearthed shocking revelations about T. E. Lawrence—the famed Lawrence of Arabia. Could Montagu have been targeted because of his discoveries?
Ryder’s search for answers takes her back to her old life in the Middle East and into a lion’s den of killers and traitors. As she draws the attention of agents from both sides of the conflict, including detectives from Scotland Yard and MI5, Ryder stumbles deeper into Lawrence’s secrets, an astounding case of royal blackmail, even the search for the Bible’s lost Ark of the Covenant.
Every step of the way, the endgame grows more terrifying. But when an attack rocks London, the real players show their hand—and Ayesha Ryder is left holding the final piece of the puzzle.
Praise for Ryder
“[Nick] Pengelley sets an unconventional story loose on and below the streets of London. With his unusual heroine, the author rejects the clichés of action-adventure thrillers and delivers a surprisingly entertaining read.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“An exciting thriller with characters that you can’t help but like . . . a thrill-a-minute story . . . well worth reading . . . Pengelley has a hit with the character of Ayesha Ryder.”—Fresh Fiction
“This fast-paced crime/political thriller not only is timely for today’s Israeli-Palestinian conflicts but it delves into historical events that helped shape the way the region’s political climate has evolved. . . . Get ready for an edge-of-your-seat ride featuring a kick-butt heroine bent on justice . . . I had a blast reading Ryder.”—Popcorn Reads
“An Indiana Jones–type adventure . . . Ryder has an Angelina Jolie–esque quality about her. . . . She is strong, both mentally and physically, and she was an amazing character to read. . . . [Ryder is] a literary roller-coaster ride I truly appreciated!”—Read-Love-Blog
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The phone buzzed. Ayesha Ryder ignored it, as she had on the three previous occasions. She flicked her long black hair away from her face and resumed typing on her laptop, her back propped against her living room sofa. At the end of a paragraph, she picked up her drink and drained the glass. As she put it down her glance fell on the glossy brochure that lay on the carpet beside her.
PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST, CAN IT REALLY WORK?
Keynote Speaker: Ayesha Ryder Ph.D., Director of Research
Walsingham Institute for Oriental Studies
PALESTINE, A NATIONAL IDEA
The words were splayed across one of those so familiar photographs of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, the golden Dome of the Rock rising above the limestone walls of the old city. The title of the talk was not her idea; she’d been overruled by the conference planning committee. Too dry, they called her suggestion for a title. It needs to be sexier, they said. Attention-grabbing. She snorted at the memory. The conference, timed to coincide with the summit meeting between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders—to be held at the Tower of London for security reasons—was already fully booked. The attention of the whole world would be on the summit, and on everything to do with the talks in which so much hope was invested. It would not have mattered what they called her paper.
She frowned at the screen. Words usually came easily to her. Quickly, too. Tonight she was struggling.
Procrastinating. She kept swapping to her browser, surfing the Web for the latest news on the summit. Checking the weather—all anyone could talk about was whether they’d have a white Christmas. Her bank account. Browsing the latest book reviews. Anything but what she had to focus on. Dammit, she scolded herself. Concentrate. The paper had to be finished by morning.
She stretched her arms high. She repeated the exercise with each of her long pale legs, wiggling her toes into the plush pile of the Aubusson carpet. Slowly, over the course of a year, she had adjusted to the idea that these things—the apartment itself, the carpet, and much more besides, like the fur coats she would probably never wear—were hers. The wealth, the sheer luxury of owning her own apartment near London’s Vauxhall Park—something she could never hope to do, even on her very decent pay—was so far removed from the surroundings she grew up in as to be laughable. She had a sudden flash of herself as a child, leaving the rough cement-block structure in Gaza City she and her parents called home, walking the mile to the nearest well and spending the day in line to fill two iron buckets with water.
She pushed away the memory. With a fluid movement, she rose to her feet and raised her arms high. On tiptoe she just brushed the bottom of the chandelier with her fingertips. She dropped back, padded across the carpet to the bathroom, relieved herself, washed her hands in the basin, and splashed water on her face. She blotted it dry with a face towel, raised her head, and looked at herself in the mirrored cabinet. She stared into the green eyes of her reflection, then grasped the bottom of her ribbed cotton tank top. It and panties were all she had on—the building’s furnace provided more than adequate heating, even in the depths of an English winter. She lifted the top back over her head and looked down.
The scars were old. She was thirty-four; the wounds were inflicted when she was sixteen. Few people had ever seen them. Only two of them were men: the man who had tortured her, and one other. With her left hand she probed the scars, feeling their rough texture against the soft skin of her fingertips. As she did this, her eyes rose to the mirror once more. Memories swarmed. She pushed them back and pulled her tank top back down over her head, took a deep breath, and closed her eyes. Centered herself. When she opened them again she avoided the mirror and opened the cabinet door. She took down her toothbrush, making a mental note to clear the cabinet of Harriet’s drugs.
The apartment was still full of her aunt’s things—clothes and knickknacks. She had to clear them out. Give the clothes to a charity. Somehow she’d never gotten around to it. The presence of Harriet’s things meant she was still there. Sort of. Her father’s sister had been everything to her—mother, sister, friend. Harriet had rescued Ayesha from the asylum in Gaza, adopted her, provided her with an education—and seen that she got the years of mental therapy she needed. More than anything, though, Harriet’s love helped her . . . not heal, but survive.
She was still staring at her toothbrush when the doorbell rang. She threw a bathrobe on. “Yes?” She spoke through the crack in the door. “Who is it?”
“Detective Sergeant Kaleb Bryan,” a deep male voice replied. A photo ID appeared in the crack. “Metropolitan Police.”
She slipped the chain and opened the door wider. A powerfully built black man loomed in the hallway, six foot one or two, with buzz-cut hair and wearing a tailored suit.
“Sorry to disturb you so late,” he said. “I did try calling.”
“What can I do for you?” She glanced at her watch. It was just after nine o’clock. She made no move to invite the detective in. Whatever he wanted, she wasn’t interested; her lecture was in two days and she was nothing like ready. She had to get back to her computer.
“I work for Detective Inspector Holden,” Bryan said. “There’s been a murder. The boss wants you to have a look at some documents.”
Ayesha grimaced at the mention of Holden. Three years before, the inspector had consulted her on a case involving antiquities stolen from Iraqi museums. Discovering she was a mine of information on the Middle East—its peoples, cultures, languages, and politics—Holden had developed the habit of calling upon her whenever he thought her expertise might save him some time. Sometimes she found the work interesting. Not tonight, though. Whatever it was would have to wait until she’d finished her paper. She shook her head, started to close the door.
“Please tell Detective Inspector Holden I will be at his disposal tomorrow. I can’t possibly come at the moment.”
DS Bryan grunted. His eyes flicked downward.
She followed his glance. Her robe had fallen open. She pulled it tight. When she looked up again, Bryan held her gaze.
“The boss said you wouldn’t want to come,” he said. “He thought you might know the vic, though.”
She waited, impatient to close the door.
“He was a professor, lived over in St. John’s Wood. Expert in your field.”
“Who?” she blurted, her computer, her paper, forgotten.
“Sir Evelyn Montagu.”
She forgot to breathe. She stared at the detective, willing him not to be there, willing this not to be true. Finally she spoke. “How?”
Bryan didn’t answer. She saw it in his eyes, though. Whatever it was, it was very bad.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Introducing a modern, intelligent female sleuth who will remind you of "Indiana Jones." Lots of action, a fast pace, & a plot grounded in solid historic context will keep readers entertained! by aj west
A great piece of historical fiction!
A good read
Scintillating suspense - brilliant! This is the first book I've read by this author and I certainly want to read more! This book has Ayesha Ryder, who was born in the middle East but is now a British Citizen working in London as an academic researcher specialising in Middle Eastern affairs, as the heroine. When another influential scholar, Sir Evelyn Montagu, who also specialised in the Middle Eastern affairs, is tortured and murdered Ayesha is called in to help the police with their enquiries. Sir Evelyn and Ayesha were very close friends (and lovers) and he has left clues for her to follow. These lead her into great danger as the race to discover just what T. E. Lawrence has left, something that could change to future for Israel and Palestine. This is an edge of your seat, roller coaster ride filled with mystery, intrigue, danger and deception. It is brilliantly written, totally engaging and a fantastic read that I have no hesitation in recommending, one of the best books I've read in this genre so far and I look forward to reading others in this series in future!
An Exciting story that is beautifully written and packed with interesting characters that have real depth. I found it hard to stop reading at any point with the on-going action and suspense. The story is contemporary but feeds off facts from the past. Ryder follows clues more challenging than anything in "The Da Vinci Code." The ending is emotional and heart-warming, with solid satisfaction for Ryder, and for the Middle East. I recommend this book for a stimulating and exciting read.
Ryder is the debut work from author Nick Pengelley and was a wild ride from start to finish filled with history, mystery, riddles, murder, and intrigue. Academic researcher Ayesha Ryder finds herself in the middle of an intense search for truths surrounding a mystery her recently murdered colleague, and former lover, had apparently stumbled upon. Mystery involving the potential of political secrets that have been kept hidden for decades and secrets that someone is desperately trying to keep hidden. It’s this quest for truth that will lead Ryder on one hell of a dangerous treasure hunt with the treasure in sight being an incredible and most important one that could potentially change the face of history for a dueling Palestine and Israel. Will she find this long-buried secret or will she die in her attempt? While this isn’t my typical go-to genre, there was something about this story that called to me and I was really glad I picked it up. Yes, there is a lot of history and political aspects to this story but beyond that there was a ton of action that had me hooked from chapter to chapter. Ryder has an Angelina Jolie-esque quality about her, with a heart breaking past and a hardened resolve to never again live through the pain she once did. She is strong, both mentally and physically, and she was an amazing character to read. Along with Ryder there were a couple of characters that really stood out and brought a much-appreciated softer layer to this intense story. One such character being a wonderful woman in her later years who has one hell of an interesting past and drinks martinis at all hours of the day. My kind of gal! Along with the great cast of characters was the feeling that we, the reader, were along on an Indian Jones type adventure. Trying to figure out riddles from the past, only to find another riddle waiting when that one was solved. It had me anxious and hyped while reading and a drive to continue reading non-stop and once and for all solve this puzzle. It was truly exciting! I will undoubtedly be looking forward to the next installments in this series and cannot wait to see what author Pengelley has in store for Ryder. Thank you, Mr. Pengelley, for a literary roller coaster ride I truly appreciated!