Author: Leah Devlin

Publisher: Penmore Press

ISBN:  978-1-942756-44-6

This archaeological thriller was a special treat. First, there is an interesting cast of characters, many flawed, and relationships among them representing a microcosm of the diversity in American society. The author uses internal dialogue to allow the reader to get inside the characters’ minds; we understand why they’re flawed. The real villain here is Ægir’s curse, where Ægir is the Vikings’s sea god—if you discount the personal demons bedeviling the main protagonist. The nominal villain and a few other characters I liked are dispatched with early as the body number increases. There’s no mystery here, only anticipation as this thriller moves inexorably to its end.

Lindsey, that main protagonist, is a bit too flawed, fighting her self-destructive quirks while trying to hold together a blended family. As a Nobel Prize winner, I suppose she’s an example of the fine line between genius and insanity. She’s interesting, but I found her collaborator Sara more interesting and normal within today’s wide social spectrum. In all of this, the author never forgets the children, who often don’t understand and are innocent victims of adults’ personal turmoil.

Some character flaws lead to or are caused by lots of philandering going on in a tightly knit research environment. Lindsey and her adopted daughter’s history of substance abuse aside, it’s mostly men doing the philandering in this tale. I guess times have changed. I never saw this much action in a research environment before! I said it’s a microcosm, but it’s like condensed soup—some water must be added, and that’s where Ægir steps in. The curse of that Norse god of the sea—at least the sea around our national treasure, Cape Cod—isn’t only the true villain, he’s essential to this tale. Or, maybe it’s his daughters stirring up all the trouble?

While the focus is on the characters, the plot is interesting too. Anyone who saw PBS’s Viking specials or has followed pre-Colombian voyages to the New World (Vikings, Chinese, St. Brendan, and so forth) will like the archaeological intrigue surrounding the Woods Hole community on Cape Cod, Massachusetts—all fiction but distinctly possible. The Cape is a favorite spot for me; I know this setting well. I prefer the elbow area and beyond, but we’ve explored the entire lower part of the forearm too. That the Vikings’s Vinland was there just on the other side is an intriguing idea, to say the least.

Because scientific ethics is one of my interests, also interesting are the motivations surrounding the evidence for that fictional Vinland site. Scientific and political intrigue mix in real life as well—the discovery of DNA and the cold fusion hoax are two examples. I don’t doubt the Vikings were in North America. Where they were is another question. That question adds another dimension to this fascinating tale. That someone would go as far as commit a crime for academic advancement is a wee bit farfetched, but you never know.

The book is longer than most thrillers, more on the sci-fi side with its narrative (world building, if you will), but it moved along so well that I was never bored. Some of the Viking lore became a little tedious, though. On the other hand, at times I thought the book was going to end, and I gave a little hurrah! when it continued. Like all good thrillers, it’s a bit of a roller coaster ride. Hold onto your seat and have some fun. The author is logical and skilled at her trade. She has told an interesting story and has told it well.