Churton, Alex - 'The Babylon Gene'
Dr Toby Ashe is an author of a series of books that combine popular science with spirituality and has been based in Lichfield, Staffordshire for the last seven years. The authorship of esoteric books is a useful cover for his other job which is in the Secret Intelligence Service. He was recruited while studying psychology and behavioural sciences at Oxford but his assignments so far have been mainly research, presentational and advisory roles.
Ashe is asked to attend a committee meeting in a converted farmhouse in Hertfordshire. The "Oddballs" meeting is held in a tower, which was originally an observatory, in the garden of the property. There are a number of SIS delegates taking part and after the meeting had been going on for quite some time, Toby is alarmed to realise that his mobile phone is ringing. He hastily rushes outside to answer it and the whole building blows up just as he steps outside. Some fallen masonry hits him and he loses consciousness. He comes to on the blood-soaked lawn of the tower and is rushed to hospital.
When he recovers, he is distressed to learn that several of his colleagues on the committee are critically injured and one close associate killed. Many of the walking wounded were rescued by a butler named Reynolds who would have received a medal for his actions if he hadn't immediately and suspiciously disappeared. Ashe and the committee had been discussing a similar explosion that occurred in Istanbul at a Freemasons Lodge shortly before and which was blamed on Fundamentalist Militants. Discussion had centred on a conspiracy concerning Freemasonry and similarities to events which had occurred decades before.
When Ashe recovers he is approached in a London gentlemen's club by a Colonel Aslan who is trying to find out why the Turkish and English explosions occurred and whether Jewish militants were behind them. Ashe, with the agreement of his superiors provides the Turk with some information and also asks for and obtains reciprocal data. The story very swiftly moves onto several other countries where Ashe is sent and he gets involved in fire-fights in Iraq. He also goes to the USA and there are several chapters involving the CIA and their agents associated to the story. The story involves a centuries old weapon of terrifying power and it all becomes clearer by the fascinating conclusion.
I found the very suspenseful plot very gripping and although the book was quite lengthy I was thoroughly engrossed until the final page. This first novel by this very talented new author is a quite breathless thriller that is a real page turner and it was very interesting to have a lead character in a spy thriller who is not a carbon copy of James Bond but a man of some intellectual capacity. I look forward to reading more novels about Dr Toby Ashe by Alex Churton. Extremely well recommended.
Terry Halligan, England
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