Review: ‘The Witch of Babylon’
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
D. J. McIntosh begins her planned Mesopotamian Trilogy with the page-turner “The Witch of Babylon” about a prospective royal treasure trove that may have been hidden away when the city of Nineveh fell in 612 B.C. Written in the ancient-secrets-modern-adventures style of fiction pioneered by Katherine Neville in “The Eight,” McIntosh’s story focuses on New York antiquities dealer John Madison’s sudden involvement in a ruthless treasure hunt for gold and gems in war-torn Iraq in 2003.
John’s late brother Stephen, a specialist in Assyrian archeology, may have been holding an engraving saved from looters at Iraq’s National Museum. After Hal Vanderlin purportedly steals the engraving, Hal dies of mysterious causes, giving opposing groups of treasure hunters the impression that John either has the artifact or knows how to find it.
Like other novels in this genre by Neville, Dan Brown and Raymond Khoury, “The Witch of Babylon’s” plot only makes sense to readers as a series of experts throughout the story continuously discuss (and sometimes lecture about) the relevant myths, history and arcane wisdom. This trademark of the genre can, at times, make readers wonder if they’re reading ancient history or modern fiction. In spite this back-story information, McIntosh keeps her plot moving. John Madison, who has had no time to come to terms with his brother’s death in an automobile accident, is always in danger; he can never be quite sure which of the other players in this deadly game are the good, the bad, or the ugly.
“The Witch of Babylon” features interlocking plots within plots from ancient Nineveh to Baghdad to New York City. The ancient history, which involves one of the Bible’s minor prophets, is just as compelling as the modern tragedy of antiquities looting in war-torn countries. Like his late brother, John believes the engraving belongs in a museum. Most of the other characters only see dollar signs and will kill anyone who gets in their way.
You can learn more about the novel, the history and the problem of antiquities looting on the book’s website.