4 stars out of 5
Mysterious, powerful stones are linked to a society that predates the earliest known to man. The elderly archaeologist who discovers them turns up dead. His nephew, a wealthy scientist in his own right, is intent on learning the secrets his uncle unearthed. Hmmm - almost from Page 1, my mind's eye was seeing shadows of Indiana Jones and The Librarian. Hints of those images remained throughout, even though the story and characters are quite different. If this book - and the rest of the series to come (next up is Race for the Flash Stone) - do as well as I expect, I won't be at all surprised to see film versions (and if that happens, I've got some great suggestions for who to cast in the lead roles; call me).
This one begins as noted archaeologist Devlin Wilson dies while hiking up a mountain - apparently the result of a fall. In his will, he leaves his home and all his research to his nephew, Anlon Cully, who has earned a stellar reputation (and a ton of money) in the biochemical field. Anlon has a rather odd relationship with an equally odd younger woman named "Pebbles" McCarver - a super-perceptive free spirit with blue hair, several body piercings and tattoos and a rather suspicious background.
Devlin's estate includes a safe in which he's hidden a couple of strangely marked stones; further research by Anlon and Pebbles reveals that Devlin was researching them in the belief that they originate prior to the oldest known civilization and that they were used by a technologically advanced group of humans. Not long after Anlon finds the stones, one of Wilson's long-time associates turns up dead, an apparent suicide (as an aside, the associate was an occasional lecturer at Stony Brook University on Long Island, New York, at which our son earned a master's degree in mathematics a number of years ago - pretty cool).
The local police - most notably detective Jennifer Stevens - get involved when it appears one or both of the deceased guys may have been murdered. Although Jennifer is reluctant to believe the theory of the stones' power, she's astute enough to realize something sinister is afoot. Jennifer, like Pebbles, is taken with the middle-aged Anlon; but surprisingly, the two very different women hit it off and set off, with Anlon's help, to rock the investigative boat. The ride brings them closer to the truth with every stroke of their paddles, but also puts them dangerously close to some very sinister characters who would like nothing more than to use the power of the stones for their own dastardly purposes.
I really, really enjoyed the book, but I do have a few nits to pick such as a few too many errors grammar and punctuation. At the top of my list is the virtual nonexistence of commas before the name of the person being addressed in direct quotes, which at times made me chuckle out loud, to-wit:
"Thanks for the lead Detective."
Um, I think you mean, "Thanks for the lead, Detective."
..."then I'll come back and help clean up AC."
May I suggest, "...then I'll come back and help clean up, AC."
All in all, though, this is a really fun, hard-to-put-down read, and I look forward to seeing where the next installment will take the trio of friends. Thanks to the author and publisher, via NetGalley, for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Now if you could just spare a few tickets to the first movie...?
Shadows of the Stone Benders by K. Patrick Donoghue (Leaping Leopard Enterprises LLC, May 2016); 283 pp.