Alex Fife is rather bored. He had the luck and the skills to start a successful company young and then sell it for a very pretty profit. Now at 25, he needs a new challenge. Cleaning up an old PC for a charity is not quite the challenge he was looking for, but he stumbles upon references to the Florentine, an item an antiques dealer was trying to sell on the black market. Alex’s hunt for the Florentine turns out to be a bigger challenge than he had in mind.
Alex and Steven, who have been best friends for some years, initially dug into the Florentine mystery out of boredom and curiosity. Richard Lister, the now deceased antiques dealer, was involved in some shady things. Alex and Steven hatch a plan to check out his house, which is for sale. Hillary, Steven’s wife, thinks they’re a bit nuts but swiftly gets caught up in the excitement. One discovery leads to another as the action spirals up. However, the stakes also continue to rise as it becomes apparent they aren’t the only one looking for the Florentine.
This was a pretty fun read. I enjoyed that Alex and crew thought they were looking for one thing and as things progressed, it became apparent they were looking for something completely different. Us readers know from the book’s description that this will happen, but it was fun to see how the author made his characters work it out. This story is mostly about the action, though there is some character development for Alex and Steven. There’s also a touch of romance, which was fine, though I didn’t feel that it particularly added to the book.
There’s plenty of computer geek speak in this book, which is what I was expecting, since Alex and most of his friends are computer scientists of one flavor or another. I enjoyed watching Alex use his expertise to collect info on the Florentine and also in laying traps for the bad guys. However, there were a few times when Alex was explaining some basic things (such as fire walls) to other computer savvy folks and that just came off as out of character. I think the author wanted these things laid out clearly for the reader, in case they aren’t computer nerds, but it came off as a bit clunky.
In contrast, the author did a great job in explaining some basics about caving. Alex has a few friends, including the most interesting Linda, who are caving folks and this techno-thriller requires some cave exploration. Hooray! Steven is not a caving person, so Alex has the perfect newbie to explain some basics to. However, there were times when Alex got a little dense on the subject. For instance, he thought it was pretty ingenious of his friend Potter to bring along glow sticks, which I would think would be a basic in most caving survival packs. Then there was that scene where Alex and crew gave up a little too easily for my taste. I felt the author was eager to move on to the next section of the book.
Now let’s talk about the morgue and Alex’s grandfather (Papa). This was by far my favorite scene of the book. Papa was so funny and yet took his role in the task so seriously! I really enjoyed this morgue caper as Alex and crew gathered further information. I’m glad the author didn’t make light of morgue security because it provided so much opportunity for Alex and Papa to have these tense, yet ridiculous, conversations.
Over all, this was a light, fun read. There were some clunky bits here and there. However, this is balanced out by the morgue scene and ratcheting-up tension and action of the story. Once the true nature of the Florentine is figured out by Alex, there’s a race on to either capture the Florentine or counteract it. The ending wraps up all the questions (except for those concerning Alex’s future love life) for this tale and leaves the door open for future installments. It would be interesting to see what Alex and crew go after next time.
I received a copy of this book at no cost from the author (via iRead Book Tours) in exchange for an honest review.
The Narration: Nick Podehl was a good fit for Alex. He had that successful mid-20s feel to the voice that made Alex come through clearly. The narrator had to do several accents – Puerto Rican, Russian, Philipino, vague Arab, Ukranian, and regional American accents – and he did them well. His female voices were realistic.