Book review: The Stonehenge Legacy by Sam Christer

Ancient codes, ritual sacrifice, serial killings, terrifying suspense and the eternal, brooding mystery of Stonehenge.

By Pam Norfolk
Tuesday, 25th January 2011, 6:00 am

Is this the trailer for a new blockbuster film? No, it’s a dazzling hybrid thriller from debut British author Sam Christer which has all the exciting semiotics of a Dan Brown adventure, the high-octane action of Indiana Jones and the old-fashioned detective work of Patricia Cornwell.

But what really marks out Christer’s rollercoaster tale of deadly modern-day druids is his lively and well-drawn cast of characters and a plot that maintains a relentless pace and a simmering menace.

There’s a bunch of fanatical stone worshippers, a feisty woman police detective, a young archaeologist seeking the truth about his father’s death and the innocent victims marked out for sacrificial death.

Add a few twists and turns, an unfolding mystery, a smattering of supernatural and a race against time and all the ingredients are there for a classic page turner.

Eight days before the summer solstice, a young man is borne on a litter to Stonehenge’s Slaughter Stone by a group of robed and hooded worshippers.

Using a flint axe carved centuries ago, the Henge Master rains down blows on his head until bone and skin collapse like eggshell.

It is just the start of a planned ritual killing spree which the charismatic and ruthless new leader claims will unlock the secret of the stones.

Later that morning, 60-year-old Professional Nathaniel Chase, one of the world’s foremost treasure hunters, sits at his desk in the study of a 17th century mansion in Salisbury and shoots himself through the head.

His estranged son, archaeologist Gideon Chase, cannot understand why his bold, daring and positive father would commit suicide; the answer may lie in a last, cryptic letter.

Teaming up with intrepid Wiltshire policewoman DI Meg Baker, he soon exposes a secret society, an ancient international legion devoted for thousands of years to the mysteries of Stonehenge.

Meanwhile, in the cult’s hidden Sanctuary, a vast, underground cathedral built by prehistoric architects, the Followers fear that Nathaniel Chase, in life their greatest ally, could in death become their worst enemy.

The second stage of their renewal must be completed and Chase’s son must not be allowed to get in the way.

The gods will not tolerate failure.

The Stonehenge Legacy is a gripping debut and, with its countdown to calamity and a scorching final action sequence, talk of blockbuster films might not be too premature.

(Sphere, paperback, £6.99)