A modern Arabian Nights

I thoroughly enjoyed Paul Sussman's earlier adventure stories, the previously reviewed The Lost Army Of Cambyses and The Last Secret Of The Temple, both featuring the Luxor based detective Yusuf Khalifa. In Sussman's third novel Khalifa only plays a very marginal role, but the author again successfully combines elements of adventure, history and archaeology to produce a thrilling read.

There is less of the crime story element in The Hidden Oasis, it is an out-and-out adventure story, and although you may have thought the earlier novels in the sequence were fairly unbelievable, this read takes you to new heights of unbelievability. To be fair to the author he is aware of this, and gently pokes fun both at the book itself (there are frequent mentions of Indiana Jones) and at the genre. Freya Hannen, an American climber, travels to Egypt to collect the body of her sister. It becomes clear that foul play is involved, but why was Alex Hannen murdered? And who can Freya trust? The tale soon turns into a hunt for a lost paradise in the middle of the Sahara, but there are evil forces at work....

As usual Paul Sussman excels in creating nasty villains - he has a liking for the sadistic James Bond type baddie, and creates them convincingly. He also has a nice line in humour, there are some very funny moments in this book - and a wonderful creation in the pair of murderous twins, who specialise in especially nasty murders, and whose ambition in life is to open a fast food concession at the home of their favourite football team. There is also a great blend of legend and history - however daft the storyline may be, Sussman is expert at drawing you in to the background he has created. I had never heard of the Hidden Oasis of Zerzura before reading this novel, but would definitely want to find out more now.

So....it's completely daft - if you're looking for a deep, meaningful, or even particularly believable read, this is not the book for you. But for fun, escapist, compelling fiction, The hidden oasis is an absolute thriller.


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