by Layton Green
Gryphon Works (2010)
ISBN: 1456546864 (e-book)
The Summoner is one of those sweeping thriller novels with a tightly wound mystery and plenty of suspense. I guess you could lump it in with a Dan Brown novel, a la The Da Vinci Code, but the one Dan Brown novel I read was interminable, and I've frankly been soured on this type of story ever since my first taste. Layton Green's offering, however, has kind of won me over to a degree, and offers a glimpse of what I could expect if I continue to give this kind of thriller novel a chance.
The story revolves around Dominic Grey, a security agent who specializes with diplomats and other government entities. He is in Zimbabwe to investigate the disappearance, as a U.S. diplomat vanished during a secret religious ceremony in the outback outside the city of Harare. Aided by cult expert, Viktor Radek, and a gorgeous government liaison, Nya Mashumba, Grey has navigate the tumultuous political and cultural climate of Zimbabwe, as well as avoid becoming a target by a dangerous religious sect himself.
Aside from a backdrop that is fairly new to me--can't remember reading any stories set in Zimbabwe--The Summoner plays the supernatural angle very well, teasing there is more to the superstitions and practices of the cult Grey investigates. In fact, there is a miniature history lesson in religions and cults laid out in this books pages that thankfully doesn't come off as dry and dull. There's nothing worse than getting smacked over the head by a lot of info dumping, when it comes to subject matter than is likely alien to the casual reader, but Layton Green manages to find the balance and through Dominic Grey's eyes we gradually learn about things and the threats they pose.
The pacing is pretty good, building tension and plenty of proverbial road blocks thrown in Grey's way, though I found some of the dialogue a bit flat at times. Overall though, the characters come through nicely, and I particularly found Professor Radek to be the one I gravitated towards the most--probably because he was the expert on religious phenomena and offers those juxtapositions between the known and the unknown.
The climax is a very good pay off, in my opinion, and while it doesn't traipse into gory territory, there is one scene late in the novel where a person in essentially skinned alive that was absolutely gruesome. And, it looks like Green has his eyes on turning Dominic Grey into a recurring character in novels, as there is apparently a sequel in the works. Don't get worried about cliffhangers or unresolved endings though, as the book works perfectly as a stand-alone novel.
Thriller fans should be in for a treat with this one, and I'd say anyone looking for a suspenseful mystery with a relatively unique setting could find some real entertainment in this book's pages as well. Heck, even supernatural horror fans like me might want to take a chance on it, just to try something that is not their usual brand of reading. I'm unsure if I'll dedicate myself to the sequel and possible series of Dominic Grey novels, since I'm hip deep in so many series already, but I certainly won't count it out as a possibility.