Zebra Books, New York City
Daniel Easterman’s The Seventh Sanctuary is quite simply the best archaeology/adventure novel I’ve read since beginning these reviews a few years ago. As a matter of fact, I first read the novel more than 15 years ago when it was first published, but lost track of the dog-eared copy I had – probably loaned to someone or sold for ten cents at a garage sale somewhere along the way. It has long been out of print, but when I happened upon it at Amazon.com, being sold for about $1.25 or so, I scooped it up, read it again, and once again was swept up in Daniel Easterman’s spooky and exciting adventure.
The book opens on an atmospheric note-it is a cold dark night in April 1944 and two men -Heinrich Himmler and an unidentified individual-meet on the parapet of Wewelsburg Castle, Westphalia. They dispassionately discuss the immanent collapse of the Third Reich. Hitler has failed them but the dream of Nazism must be preserved. Resigned to a crushing defeat, Himmler asks plaintively, “Is it true that all this is finished?” indicating the emblems and flags of Nazi Germany that hang from the castle walls. “Yes,” the other man replies. It is finished. Believe me. But not forever. Not forever.”
We are then transported to the present-or at least the present of the late 1980s when, on a snowy evening at Cambridge, a young scholar meets with his dissertation committee to defend his research on an obscure bit of ancient history of the Nafud Desert region in Egypt. The academic meeting is disturbed by the unexpected entry of a cold-eyed stranger who promptly shoots all in attendance and then disappears into the night.
These two episodes, separated by more than forty years in time and thousands of miles in geography, plunge American-born Jewish archaeologist David Rosen into a wild roller-coaster of danger and adventure as he is pursued by mysterious assassins just as he hunts down clues to the deaths of his friend, the young scholar in Cambridge, his parents, and others whose path crosses his and who seem to hold pieces of the puzzle that lead to a mysterious city in the desert known from ancient Koranic and other Arab sources as Imran. As he draws closer to the supposedly mythical outpost in the desert, aided by a beautiful Palestinian anthropologist with whom he (surprise! Surprise!) falls in love, it becomes ever more evident that the dreams of the Third Reich may not have died in that Berlin bunker so many years before!
The pace of this adventure novel is dazzling, Easterman’s powers of description are first rate and this plot line, which is not particularly new or innovative, unfolds with freshness and vigor. While it may take some digging to come up with a copy of The Seventh Sanctuary (no pun intended), the effort and cost will be worth it. This is great escapist literature-whether read in front of a winter fireplace or a summer beach-and I can’t recommend it highly enough! Easterman has written a number of adventure yarns since Seventh Sanctuary, and some of them are quite entertaining, but none as good as this one.
Without hesitation, I give this one Four Trowels!