Adventurous History: The Tombs

Looks like I’ve encouraged TBYL reviewer, Fiona Boyd to ‘read differently’ too…

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The Tombs, by Clive Cussler and Thomas Perry (Penguin) is the first book I’ve read in the contemporary adventure genre, and I must admit to thinking Mandi (of That Book You Like…) may have been a little crazy in sending it to me to review. I’m much better known for being a big consumer of psychological thrillers and detective fiction, especially those that involve woman protagonists. My favourite author to read would probably be the famous Agatha Christie, though Kerry Greenwood comes close on her heels, as I so love the Hon. Phyrne Fisher character.

Clive Cussler’s new release (written with Thomas Perry) is not my usual reading fare, but I guess it’s fair to say that it does have some plot features in common with my usual reads. It’s full of twists, turns and boundless adventure. So much adventure, in fact, that I found myself feeling exhausted as I lay on a Whitsunday Island beach on holiday, while I made my way through this book. It’s action packed, with no shortage of magnetometers and quite a lot of guns!

Casting my eye around, observing the adults reading around the pool, I spotted quite a few copies of E.L. James Fifty Shades of Grey and Katherine Stockett’s The Help in the hands of female readers. I also spotted a couple of Catherine Fox novels and Kerry Greenwood’s latest Unusual Habits. In the hands of the guys I saw plenty of Tom Clancy and of course, Clive Cussler’s The Tombs.

The opening pages of the story take us back to the 5th century AD in the time of Attila the Hun, specifically to his untimely death on his wedding night to Goth bride Ildico, and his subsequent burial….

“Priscus went to the white tent the next day and found the High King being prepared for burial in the fiery light of a hundred flaming lamps. Attila’s retainers placed him in a series of three coffins. The outer and largest one was made of iron. The coffin placed inside it was made of solid silver. The third was pure gold. The coffins were packed with the jeweled weapons of the many kings Attila had defeated.”

With all that loot, Attila’s people were hardly going to bury him anywhere obvious…

“The elite horsemen of the burial detail were returning to the great encampment of the Huns…. When the thousand riders drew up, they dismounted and bowed to the assembled chiefs…Ellak, the eldest heir of Attila, stepped up to the leader of the burial party, a man named Mozhu. He put his hand on Mozhu’s shoulder and said. “Tell us.”

Mozhu said, “We took the High King to a place in the bend of a river far away where travelers seldom pass. We built a crypt as deep as two men are tall, with a sloping entrance, and carried the coffins to the bottom. Then we covered the crypt and the sloping passage. We herded our thousand horses across the area many times until it was impossible to pick out the precise spot where the crypt was buried. Then we diverted the river so it will flow deep over the High King’s tomb forever.”

Whew! No wonder Attila’s remains have remained unfound and undisturbed. That’s a lot of effort going towards making sure all that gold, jewellery and bounty made it to the afterlife with Attila the Hun.

Now that’s where “The Tombs” starts but not nearly where it ends. Our key protagonists in this novel are adventurers and treasure hunters, Sam and Remi Fargo, who due to a successful sale of a business have been able to spend their time helping out archeologists and historical researchers on ancient sites, most of which seem to involve some kind of buried treasure. How’s that for a life?!

Their dear friend, the respected Roman historian and archeologist, Albrecht Fischer has made the important discovery in Hungary  of an unusual corpse  and enlists the Fargos’ to help him quietly get back into the country and excavate the rest of the site. In doing so, the Fischer’s helpers find another 999 corpses. Mysteriously, all are decapitated and all have their weapons were buried with them. An enigma, but not the only one as the group finds a mysterious message from Attila the Hun that indicates that this site is one of five important positions involved in his burial and that in the others, much treasure and bounty from his years of taking territory through Europe and Asia can be found.

Not surprisingly, Sam and Remi take on the task of finding the remaining sites while their researchers and Dr Fischer head back home do the decoding of the cryptic messages revealed in this adventure. The Tombs rockets along seemingly in its own time and space, I often wondered how this couple could do so much in so little time and without much rest and recovery. However, be assured, Cussler and Perry make sure their heroes are always well-fed and appropriately dressed. Their Attila adventure takes them to Hungary, France, Transylvania (in Romania), Russia and finally to Rome, and interestingly, we get to find out their precise dinner arrangements at every location. The Fargos sure eat well on their adventures.

As they progress through this adventure, the Fargos make friends of local police and seem to be able to find the good guys in every territory. Nonetheless, they also cross paths and intents with the dreaded Arpad Bako, a wealthy businessman and black marketer who claims to be descended from Attila the Hun and seems to have made the warrior and the finding of this tomb, his own private obsession. He has equally unpleasant associates – in France, a Etienne Le Clerc and in Russia, Sergei Poliokoff, whose country estate is blown up by the Fargos. Not that the Fargos are terror-loving people mind you, it just seems that wherever they go trouble finds them and they need to do extreme things to extricate themselves.

The Tombs is a pleasant adventure romp through history and through Europe and culminates in the finding of serious amounts of treasure and the revelation of some of Attila the Hun’s well hidden secrets. The ending of the story also sees a fitting conclusion for the bad buys, although I found it somewhat unusual that the novel would end with shootings and houses being blown up, to me it seem to conclude nicely without this.

Anyway, if you’re about to head off on holidays and don’t want to be bored, take The Tombs with you and have a heart-thumping read! It’s got history, adventure, food, and a happy ending. What more could you want from a blokes-own-adventure story?

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You can find out more about The Tombs, by Clive Cussler and Thomas Perry here

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