Attorney Jonathan Marcus is called to Rome to consult on a high-profile antiquities case for his law firm. Having been a former doctoral student in the classics, he's in high demand for cases such as this one. But in this case he finds himself opposite his old flame, UN preservationist Emili Travia, until secrets begin to emerge related to the fragment of stone map Jonathan is called to examine. When Jonathan and Emili join forces and begin to follow the clues, they find themselves traveling from the ruins of Rome to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in order to preserve Judaic and Christian history.
There were parts of THE LAST EMBER that reminded me of THE DA VINCI CODE and parts that reminded me of INDIANA JONES movies. It is filled with Biblical history, intrigue, politics, and adventure. Not having a firm grasp of Judaic history, I found myself reading slower to ensure I wasn't missing vital elements of the novel, but the book is written with a pace that is quick and there's constantly action ensuing. This is definitely a plot-driven novel; it's a treasure hunt.
The exotic locales of the novel add to the intrigue in the plot:
They descended a staircase leading farther underground. The odor of coal dust and rat droppings condensed around them like a mist. The underground landscape stretched out before them like a lost city, street after street winding deeper into the earth. Occasional gusts of fetid air made it difficult to breathe. It resembled an underwater street scene: rotted casks lay half buried in the silt; dust motes floated across the flashlight beams like plankton; algae-covered signs still hung outside small storefronts. The ghostly intact streetscapes sprawled for dozens of meters. These Roman streets had been buried alive.
And the rich symbolism from Biblical stories adds to the mystery. Anything surrounding Jerusalem is of course dripping with political issues and power struggles. History has shown time and time again that people will go to great lengths for their beliefs. Not having a vast knowledge of all the issues surrounding this plot, I can't speak to their validity. I did find the plot complex and fascinating in its depiction of various theories and beliefs with a few well-placed twists to add to the suspense. The plot also requires the reader to have a certain element of faith.
Focus in this book was not on the characters; they are static characters who serve their role in the grand scheme of the plot, and I didn't find that I made any great connections with any them.
All in all THE LAST EMBER is an entertaining, enlightening read.
THE LAST EMBER is available in hardcover (ISBN: 978-1-59448-872-6) from Riverhead Books.