The Da Vinci Code seems to have established a new breed of thriller that appears to be here to stay. The idea of all these secrets tumbling out of the past to endanger the present-day world on an unheard-of scale, or of disclosures ripping away our religious beliefs while presenting some faction of the Roman Catholic Church as the bad guys can — on the surface, at least — seem a little far-fetched. But thriller readers keep reaching for them as they spill out onto the shelves.
Unfortunately, not all of the writers are capable of backing up their painstaking historical research and deep thinking with the kind of action that thriller readers long for. It’s one thing to present a ton of background information, history, legend, and possibilities, but it’s quite another to do so in a manner that keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole time.
Eric Van Lustbader’s new novel, The Testament, delivers the action in spades, and spins the twists and turns on a dime. I first encountered Lustbader when he was writing fantasy, a trilogy about the Sunset Warrior that had Asian flavors. From there he went on to write the wildly popular Nicholas Linnear books, as well as other books with heavily researched Chinese and Japanese backgrounds. Lately he’s managed a return to the fantasy genre with his books about The Pearl, and even penned a new Jason Bourne adventure.
The Testament opens with a provocative battle between a warrior of the Church and armed men who pursue him for the secret he carries. From just the first few pages I knew I was in good hands. I wasn’t going to spend all of my time clambering around musty bookshelves looking for ancient secrets or ferreting out hidden puzzles and codes. All of that has its place, of course, but I do enjoy a white-knuckled plunge through two-fisted adventure.
After the Prologue, the action shifts over to Dexter Shaw. He immediately comes across as a man on a mission, and one with a ton of secrets he’s carrying around. Both are true. He meets with his son, Braverman (hereafter called Bravo), and they immediately get into one of their usual fights. Dexter wants to tell Bravo something that he considers vastly important, but Bravo says they’ll talk later.
That chance doesn’t come. Only a short time later, Dexter confronts one of his long-time enemies and barely escapes with his life. A few minutes later, he’s killed.
Bravo gets the news and can’t believe it. His father is dead and his sister has been blinded in what everyone is calling a tragic “accident.” Bravo knows what happened wasn’t an accident. In the hospital, his sister reveals his destiny to him, that he has to find and protect whatever his father left hidden out there for him to find and protect.