Latest book review: The Egyptian by Layton Green


(very good; top 50% of SciThri)

Year published: 2011
Category: thriller; science thriller; series (#2, Dominic Grey)

Tech rating (out of 5):

SUMMARY:

Dominic Grey, an ex-Marine and Jujitsu expert with a troubled childhood but a strong moral compass, is hired by his professorial employer Viktor Radek to investigate what appears to be a case of corporate espionage.  But the nature of what was stolen from the Egyptian biotech company is kept secret from Grey, who soon learns that it’s worth killing for.  The search for the stolen test tube turns into a run for his life and ultimately a desperate attempt to save himself and his female companion by confronting the villains on their home turf.

REVIEW:

A stellar opening set in Cairo’s City of the Dead launches the reader into an intelligently-written, page-turning tale revolving around a tiny test tube stolen by a scientist from his employer.  The Egyptian by Layton Green gives us strong characters, especially our hero Dominic Grey, as well as the freelance journalist Veronica Brown and a delightful secondary character, Jax, a mercenary.  (The villain is also intriguing, though not quite believable.)  Grey and Radek are investigators hired for cases involving cults.  (Their first case is told in Layton Green’s The Summoner.)  How this case is connected to the occult becomes more clear as the book goes on.  And that bandage-wrapped toe in the opening scene–well, you’ll be seeing it again.

Action in the tale spans New York, Bulgaria, Cairo, and the Sahara desert.  The real strength of The Egyptian is the strong writing, which is more literary in style than your typical thriller.  Here are some examples that leaped out:

 is death’s antechamber not what the world was anyway, everyone waiting for the same unseen adventure?

In places like Bulgaria the past and present have melded together, stirred by the spoon of change into an anachronistic stew, soon to be gobbled up by the greedy jaws of progress.

It was the deepest part of the night, bottled entropy

Now, if the whole thriller were written like this, it would be a turn-off, but Green uses such passages sparingly, in my opinion to nice effect.  He also delves thematically into a bit of philosophy and morality through the story, again without a heavy hand.  The Egyptian does suffer from a bit too much exposition in places, especially semi-academic stuff about cults (but at least it’s interesting exposition), and the story as a whole could be tightened up and made shorter as certain scenes feel like they’re repeating the tenor or actions of previous ones.

Biohazard rating: some interesting technical content on telomerase and aging plus a reasonable laboratory scene, but overall science is not a dominant feature of this story.

Overall, an engaging thriller featuring an excellent series character hero in Dominic Grey, with enough accurate science in the background to qualify as Sci-Thri.

Key words: Hayflick limit; somatic cell nuclear transfer; senescence; telomere; telomerase; Somax; gerontology; stem cell

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