Book Of Souls by Glenn Cooper
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Well, there’s a thing. I’m wondering if I haven’t read Library of The Dead by Mr Cooper and thinking not. I know I have read Secret of The Seventh Son, when it turned out ‘Library’ and ’Seventh Son’ are one and the same. Somewhere along the line, the title got changed. In which direction, I can’t say. Though a guess would be that Library of The Dead is the up-dated title, as it were. Anyway, that wasn’t half bad and introduced us to Cooper’s hero, one Will Piper. Book of Souls finds us again in Mr Piper’s company, in what is a really rather splendid sequel to the aforementioned ’Seventh Son’ (or ‘Library’).
He has to spend a fair bit of space at the start explaining the set-up, for those who may not have read the first one. A fair bit of space because there’s both a fair bit that needs explaining, but maybe he also needs a fair bit of space, because he needs to go into some detail, as the set-up, on the surface, is rather unbelievable. It will help if you’ve read what we experts are calling ‘Will Piper 1,’ but I should think you’d manage alright without having done so.
So, that set-up, then? Look away if it begins to get a little like shit from China – far-fetched: Some time, way back in the mists of history, the seventh son, of a seventh son, on the seventh day…in the year 777, etc, was born. Was seen as being a little what some nowadays might euphemistically call ’special.’ He began writing dates, lots of them, non-stop, in many different languages. These dates turn out to be births and deaths from that date onwards. Somehow or other, he impregnates a girl, has another son, who also starts writing, monks take over, years pass, more boys, more dates, hundreds of books filled, huge library built underground at abbey on Isle of Wight. Suddenly stop at a date in the future, forgotten when, but soon-ish, no idea why. During Second World War, books discovered, over to USA, stored in Area 51 (is it?) Catalogued, used for guessing when USA can take advantage of catastrophe (etc). Men turn up at Piper’s door, as he used to work at hush-hush establishment and they suspect, rightly, he has stolen a copy of the database. The very rich (very rich) one of the men, is on the list, with a death date in a couple of days. Wants to find out something or other, has discovered one book is missing from library, is for sale at auction house in London. They want to buy it. As does CIA, or NSA, or super secret intelligence agency. Chaos ensues.
For all that, it fairly races along in the early stages and is proves quite a gripping read. That is even despite the fact that the bad guy – even though the bad guys/ruthless agent is in-situ, front row of the auction, presumably with more than enough funds available to out-bid on the book, thanks to the imperative nature of the Govt’s desire to get the book back – gets out bid by our good guys. On the phone. From Piper’s home in New York. How did THAT happen?! Ok, so the bad boys lose the auction. Then play nice guys, letting some young office boy take the book they wanted so bad, over to New York. Why didn’t they just steal it off him, in London – or New York? No, they wanted to ‘see who is behind it’, who out-bid them. A bit thin as they’ve got evidence it is Piper and have bugged his phone, etc. But they wouldn’t have needed to do that if they had just taken the book. But then they wouldn’t have been able to get the link to Will Piper, you see. The ‘office boy’ turns out to be a British Intelligence operative, but not a very good one as he is soon overpowered on his arrival in New York. But not like you and I would have planned it, i.e. BEFORE he delivered the book, no, they wait until after.
From this uncertain start, it turns towards being a treasure hunt. After clues to something or other are found in the back page of the ‘missing’ volume. This of course means he can incorporate flashbacks in a slightly different way to most books’ (of this kind) flashbacks. Not badly done at all. And, of course, it allows him to set the action not only in the country of my birth, but the county, Worcestershire. And not far from where I was born as well. All good.
Well, despite having veered close to preposterous, its preposterousness actually reads a lot more convincingly preposterous, than several others I’ve read of this ilk, of which, a few spring immediately to mind – ‘The Rule of Four,’ for example.
Nevermind. It is written in a good, flowing, energetic way, so that my brain can forgive him (nearly) all the above, while my eyeballs rush headlong into the next, on later reflection, unlikely situation. It is actually really rather difficult to put down, as they say. It kind of loses its way a little towards the end, several things happening and it doesn’t feel like the same sense of purpose there was at the start or in the middle. The end does have several ends, as I suppose it has to, given the premise. But my explanation for why…well, you know, is the more obvious one, easily figure outable if you think logically about it.
Actually, if you don’t try thinking too much about the plot, you’ll probably enjoy the book just fine.