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    Review of THE LOST THRONE by Chris Kuzneski (see his website)

    Payne and Jones

    Putnam, July 2009

    If he'd answered his cellphone, everything might have been different. But now the man who'd tried to call is dead, assassinated in a highly professional hit. And Payne and Jones set off to Russia to rescue the dead archeologist's beautiful assistant. Meanwhile, renegade Spartans have invaded a mountaintop monestary, slaughtering a group of monks who'd gathered. Nick Dial, head of Interpol's homocide division, decides he wants to investigate and quickly finds the international connections needed to justify Interpol's involvement.

    Ex-special-forces soldiers Payne and Jones make their way to Russia and find the woman, but their curiosity is piqued. The dead man was on the trail of some ancient treasure. Could he really have located one of the long-lost wonders of the ancient world? Finding the treasure, though, puts the two modern warriors on a collision course with the Spartans, who will do anything, kill anyone, to preserve their culture.

    Okay, it's fun to imagine that a group of Greek villagers have clung to Spartan traditions two thousand years after Sparta's destruction. As for brave heroes rescuing beautiful (and intelligent as a bow to modern sensibilities) women, it's almost a necessity. Then there's the possibility that vast treasures of historical, artistic, and monetary value may still exist, hidden in ancient Orthodox monestaries that were never plundered during Ottoman occupation. These heirs of the Byzantine empire may contain treasures that put those of the Vatican to shame.

    Author Chris Kuzneski combines these ingredients into a fast-paced story filled with adventure, tough-guys and amusing side-kicks (like the Finnish fishing captain). THE LOST THRONE is definitely not literature, but it makes for a fast and enjoyable read. I wish, though, that Kuzneski had put a little more thought into the setup and connections. Why, exactly, did the archeologist on-the-run call in Payne and Jones? After all, he had other resources available to him and would probably have realized that Payne and Jones would hardly let him go about stealing the treasure. The whole issue of the cellphone ringing (and Payne thinking it was the hotel phone) struck me as implausible. I don't have a huge problem with Kuzneski's Spartan warriors--why not, after all. But would Spartan armor really protect a warrior from modern bullets? If so, why not equip our modern soldiers with such effective body armor? Overall, I found just a little too much improbability to keep me fully in the story, but I did find THE LOST THRONE to be a relaxing beach-style read.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 8/24/09

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