Monday, February 16, 2015

The Babylon Contingency by Clifford Longley

The Babylon Contingency was published by Lion Fiction, the UK arm of Kregel Publications. Lion books have been somewhat of a mixed bag--some Christian and some not so much.  This book falls in the "not so much" category although by modern standards is still a pretty clean book.

The reader jumps into the middle of the action with police keeping an eye on a manor house that had recently been broken into. That break in showed nothing stolen which raised the investigator's suspicion that perhaps they'd be back for something in the future. It so happens that future is now as Detective Inspector Robbie Peele observes the faint flicker of a cigarette being lit beneath a broken window.  He quietly calls for back-up and waits to see what happens.

The first chapter sets a pretty fast pace with the intruders making a getaway and only a few clues to their identity.  Even more mystifying is what they were hoping to steal--nothing seems missing at the manor.  While investigating after the break-in, Peele discovers some ancient disks. Apparently as yet unknown in the world of archaeology.

Peele quickly gets promoted (temporarily) to provide him the clearance to work with some other agencies but he is not quite clear if he's in charge or merely a puppet of others.  It's hard for him to know who to trust.  And the reader is just as confused as Peele.

His investigation goes international as Peele tries to not only translate the mysterious language on the disks, but figure out who is in hot pursuit of them. Is it a political group? Religious fanatics?  The possession and ultimate translation could be a bigger discovery than the Dead Sea Scrolls with the capacity to confirm or contradict Biblical record.  Christians, Jews and Muslims all have a stake in the answers.

I was extremely confused throughout the book with all the various branches and organizations thrown into the story.  Maybe readers in the UK will have a clearer sense of all those agencies but it was pretty unclear to this American.  After a very long, methodical international search, it seemed as though things wrapped up rather abruptly and then the story skipped ahead several years only to end in a somewhat ambiguous way. I felt the book yanked me around the world without any absolute clarity at the end.

Now for a few spoilers that keep me from wholeheartedly recommending the book. I was disappointed that a character who seemed to have a good marriage was actually carrying on an affair with a colleague in secret (going on business trips together).  Nothing was expressly written but the implication was clear.  And it seemed as though the majority of Peele's thought life (other than the case) was fending off feelings of attraction for his female partner. All those internal dialogues I found to significantly distract from the story line (and honestly made me think of Peele as rather shallow and flaky).  And not sure why the author felt the need to posthumously inform the reader about a character's alternative lifestyle which had otherwise been unknown to the reader. I would rather have stayed in the dark on that topic.  It really added nothing of substance to the story so why offend a good bit of your audience by throwing it in?

Several characters take jabs at Christianity as if it were the religion for fools. I think had the topic of religion been handled in a more diplomatic way, it could have appealed to so many more people with an interest in religion and/or archaeology.

Kregel is offering the e-book of The Babylon Contingency for only $1.99 during the week of February 16-20, 2015. You can download it through Amazon here.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of The Babylon Contingency from Kregel Publications for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.

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