Tom Knox’s third historical thriller, THE LOST GODDESS, benefits from the suspenseful use of dual narratives that eventually intertwine --- in stunning and horrific ways.
The novel opens with archaeologist Julia Kerrigan digging and scraping in the dank limestone cave systems beneath the Cham des Bondons in a remote part of France. She is thrilled to have unearthed an apparently career-defining discovery --- a series of skulls all marked by one distinct feature: precarious holes in the frontal lobe area.
"THE LOST GODDESS is a roller coaster ride packed with suspense, Gothic intrigue and historical adventure that never seems to let up."
The little known Cham des Bondons is a megalithic complex that rivaled Stonehenge --- and may bear just as much mystery. Julia believes that there must be a connection between the Bondons and the strange disfigurement of the bones she found. She expected her mentor, Ghislaine Quoinelles, to be equally excited about her discovery. When he abruptly dismisses it, she is shocked and suspicious. After Ghislaine is brutally murdered, Julia is convinced there is something much darker behind the discovery she made.
Meanwhile, British photojournalist Jake Thurby is traveling through Cambodia looking for a pictorial. When he lands a gig working for the attractive Cambodian attorney, American-educated Chemda Tek, he has no idea what secrets they will find together. She begins to tell Jake about the horrors of the Khmer Rouge and the barbaric acts perpetrated by them that included chaining and exsanguinations of prisoners. Chemda takes Jake to the mysterious Plain of Jars where the remnants of many of these hideous acts can be found.
Chemda has developed a reputation as one looking to expose the Khmer Rouge, and this has not made her very popular. Certain authorities will go to great lengths to silence Chemda and her discoveries, and she and Jake become instant targets. When they find remains that show bodies that were tortured and had a part of their skull removed in the front and link to the two, storylines begin to form.
Back in France, Julia continues to delve further into the murder of her mentor and is horrified to learn that Ghislaine’s grandfather was infamous for a series of crossbreeding experiments between men and animals. She now realizes that Ghislaine’s dismissal of her find was an attempt to keep his own family’s notorious past hidden. Julia’s search uncovers a link to her find in France with Indochina, Laos and Cambodia.
When Julia and Jake’s two investigations are eventually joined, it is with tragic results. Rather than a moment of truth, the narrative is turned on its head when Julia points at Jake’s companion, Chemda, and claims she is the evil woman who killed her mentor and several others in an attempt to avenge those alleged to be linked to the horrible series of experiments the archaeological finds have uncovered.
From this point on, THE LOST GODDESS is a roller coaster ride packed with suspense, Gothic intrigue and historical adventure that never seems to let up. Most particularly, the evil intent behind the lobotomizing of what has been uncovered will literally chill readers to the bone. Tom Knox is the pseudonym for English journalist and author Sean Thomas --- and he really knows his stuff. This novel jumps to the head of the pack as the historical thriller to beat in 2012.
Reviewed by Ray Palen on February 2, 2012