ALTAR OF BONES

Written by Philip Carter

Review written by Maureen Carlyle


ALTAR OF BONES
Simon and Schuster
RRP: £12.99
Released: 26th May 2011
Hdbk
If ever there was a novel crying out to be made into a blockbuster movie, this is it.

In a hidden cave in a remote corner of Siberia, screened by a frozen waterfall, lies an ancient altar constructed from human bones. It guards a pool containing a mysterious liquid that has the property of prolonging human life. In 1939 a resourceful young woman, Lena Orlova, escapes from a Siberian labour camp with her lover. She is the latest in a long line of women who are the keepers of the Altar of Bones. The office has been passed from mother to daughter from time immemorial.

Unfortunately Lena’s lover is actually an officer in the KGB. She discovers this too late – after she has given him a small dose of the liquid, thinking he is about to die of pneumonia. A timely avalanche saves her from being murdered by him, which buries the entrance to the cave and enables her to escape.

The action then switches to Galveston, Texas, in the present. A young priest is sitting by his dying father. He learns that his father has been leading a double life for years and has been involved in some terrible crimes, including murder. Dom, the priest, is desperately trying to contact his brother, Ry, who is a secretive person, often away from home. Dom leaves a message for him but is then murdered by an evil woman with red hair. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, a young lawyer of Russian extraction, Zoe Dmitroff, is contacted by the police about the brutal murder of an old down-and-out woman known as Rosie. Zoe is estranged from her mother, Anna Larina, who is the boss of a Russian mafia outfit based in San Francisco. The post mortem reveals that before she died Rosie had tried to swallow a piece of paper with Zoe’s name and address on it, and a DNA test establishes that Rosie was Zoe’s grandmother…….

This is just the beginning of an extremely complicated plot, involving the assassination of President Kennedy, the death of Marilyn Monroe, and some absolutely nail-biting car chases in Paris and elsewhere – I can just picture it all on screen.

The book is vaguely reminiscent of Stieg Larsson, although not to be compared as a piece of fiction. However, it’s all vastly entertaining, and would work even better as a film.
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