Saturday, March 15, 2008

THE CODEX by Douglas Preston

When Tom Broadbent is summoned to the family mansion in Santa Fe, New Mexico he finds his two older brothers impatiently trying to get a response at the front door. Their efforts are unsuccessful, and each of the men has a sinking feeling. When Tom finally breaks a window they find the house empty. Gone are their father's beloved art and artifacts--both legal and illegal--and in their place are barren walls, a few empty boxes and remnants of packing tape. Their initial assumption is that someone killed their father and stole his valuable collection. But as they walk through the house they find a big screen television, VCR, and a videocassette with a handwritten note taped to it that reads: Watch Me.

When the three sons play the cassette their father merrily greets them with, "Greetings from the dead." Their father was diagnosed with terminal cancer a few months earlier, and the boys--who never quite measured up to their father's high expectations--will have to earn their inheritance. Mr. Broadbent made his fortune hunting treasure and now he wants his sons to follow in his footsteps. If they want their father's legacy they will have to find it.

The Codex is a thriller that has plenty of everything; there are exotic locations, action, suspense, mystery, and even a touch of romance. Mr. Preston bestows the story with a unique blend of archaeology, pharmacology, and mysticism. He creates characters that fit the story--they are less than real, but their motives are pitch-perfect as the plot weaves itself into places I didn't expect. If The Codex has a weakness it is my usual rant: It's a smidgen too long. It runs--in mass-market paperback--to 404 pages, and while I never got bored with the story there were a few moments when I wanted it to move more swiftly.

The Codex is better than the average modern thriller, and if you enjoy intrigue,mystery, suspense, and don't mind a few clumsy interludes of romance, and can ignore one or two "yeah, right" moments it will entertain, and do it with style.

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