Monday, September 26, 2011

Review of "The Black Madonna" by Peter Millar

This is an Amazon Vine review of "The Black Madonna".

Palestinian archaeologist Nazreem Hashrawi is Sophie Neveu, the dynamic one of the pair who drives the plot along. South-African Marcus Frey is Robert Langdon, the academic who specialises in arcane historical lore and has been dragged into a mystery he barely comprehends. They are chased around London, England; Altötting, Germany; various locations in Spain; the French railway system; and finally back to London for the denouement. Rather than Opus Dei, their stereotypical antagonists include Islamic fundamentalists (led by an Osama Bin-Laden figure), American Evangelical Fundamentalists and various factions within the Catholic Church.

The subject of all this running around? The mysterious and thoroughly ancient `Black Madonna' unearthed by Nazreem in the Gaza Strip: each of the sects has their own reasons for wanting this seminal piece of `idolatry'. Oh, and there's an on-off sparkle of potential romance between Nazreem and Marcus. And did I mention that all this is occurring under the benign surveillance of the British Intelligence Services?

This is a well-executed `bad book'. Echoing Dan Brown, the writing is clunky, formulaic and over-adorned with cliché. It seems that every corner turned is an excuse for one of the characters to indulge themselves (and us) with an undigested chunk of historical exposition. I was prepared to be quite irritated by all this when I realised that author Peter Millar just doesn't care. I'm sure his writing style is totally tongue-in-cheek, the saving grace being that all the rushing around and clumsy plot twists do in fact engage the reader's attention; and with Nazreem Hashrawi, the author's dream girl becomes, in part, the reader's too.

So this is a somewhat enjoyable exercise in pastiche and will fill a long train journey more than adequately.