Formats available: ebook
Series: Ayesha Ryder #3
Length: 238 pages
Publisher: Random House Alibi
Date Released: May 5, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
The Maltese Falcon was no mere legend—this fabulously jewelled golden bird really existed. Still exists, according to the last words of a dying man. Ayesha Ryder is on its trail, but not just to find the Falcon itself. It is said to contain a clue to the lost burial place of King Harold of England, a potent symbol for ruthless politicians determined to break up the UK and create a new, independent English Kingdom. The Falcon may also contain a second clue, one that few would believe.
Labelled an assassin, hunted by Scotland Yard and Dame Imogen Worsely of MI5—as well as those who want the Falcon and its secrets for themselves—Ayesha joins forces with Joram Tate, the mysterious librarian known to her friend Lady Madrigal, a one-time lover of Lawrence of Arabia. As Ayesha’s attraction to Tate grows, they follow clues left by long-dead knights to the tomb of a Saxon king and to the ruined Battle Abbey. When the trail leads them to a stunning secret hidden for a thousand years beneath an English castle, Ayesha must battle modern killers with medieval weapons before confronting the evil that would destroy her nation.
Ayesha Ryder still feels like the love child of Indiana Jones and Lara Croft, but her adventures have a “ripped from the headines” feel in spite of their setting in a slightly alternate 21st century from our own.
On the one hand, in Ryder, Ayesha’s adventures led to the foundation of a new combined Israeli/Palestinian country in the Middle East named “The Holy Land”. Her rescue of that peace process and its principal political figures brought her to the attention of world leaders as a Middle East expert and a woman who can and will get the job done and the treasure found, no matter how mythical that treasure might initially seem to be.
In Bird of Prey, Ayesha is hunting for the sword of Harold Godwinson, the last English king. For those not familiar with the history, Harold is the king who lost England in 1066 to William the Conqueror.
While Ayesha’s friend, the British Prime Minister Susannah Armstrong, is vehemently opposed, there is a bill in Parliament, brought forward by Susannah’s Deputy PM, to not only dissolve the United Kingdom but take the remaining country, England, out of the European Union, NATO and the World Trade Organization. This England for the English platform would give Scotland its independence and allow Ireland to reunite. Or not in the latter case, but the English would be officially out of it.
In last week’s newspaper I saw an article about the British Parliamentary elections then in progress which also posits some of the same ideas. That this was closer to real than I expected was a huge surprise.
Back to the story. As a symbol of this England for the English movement, the organizers want Harold’s sword, which was supposed to have been buried with him. As usual for one of Ayesha’s adventures, the question on the table concerns the real life location of that burial. Which is, of course, part of the mystery Ayesha has to solve.
The clues to where that burial might be are hidden in yet another legendary artifact. Not on is the Maltese Falcon real in Ayesha’s world, but it contains both the key to Harold’s burial site and clues to the location of the fabled lost Templar treasure.
Someone, or multiple someones, are willing, in fact downright eager, to kill in order to get the sword and the treasure. But the bad guys should know by now that attempting to pin your crimes on Ayesha Ryder is a ploy that is guaranteed to fail. With extreme prejudice.
Escape Rating B+: It’s the treasure hunts that keep drawing me in. History is fascinating in general, and the idea that so many of the things we thought were legendary might be real is always enthralling. While there seems to be more than a bit of luck involved, it is so easy to get swept up in the way that Ayesha spins from one clue to the next, and always just one step ahead of the villains.
Ayesha’s assistants in this particular treasure hunt are a librarian whose propensity for adventure belongs in the TV show The Librarians and a female archaeologist who is thrilled to be the gender bent Indiana Jones in this running chase and battle.
That the chase comes to its conclusion in a reconstructed castle complete with reconstructed weapons and reenactors, while the villains arrive by Zeppelin, made for an exciting and climactic conclusion that goes from tongue-in-cheek to serious and deadly in the blink of an eye.
That one of the villains is a ghost from Ayesha’s past added to the stakes for her, and the consequences for the next book.
Something about the political setup of this one didn’t quite gel for me. The idea of England for the English is closer to real-life truth than I expected, but the idea that the House of Commons would be moved to revolt by the finding of the sword, or that such an important concept could pass this easily, seemed a bit too far-fetched.
I will say that the idea that highly-placed villains continue to try to shift blame for their crimes at the initial stages of the story by framing Ayesha Ryder has probably run its course. The first time it happened it added to the suspense. In this story even the characters who are intended to investigate the accusation saw it as a red flag that whoever said it must be part of the plot. I hope not to see this idea again for a while.
I absolutely love the treasure hunt aspects of the Ryder series. Ayesha always finds herself on the trail of something incredible, and always finds it, even if she doesn’t always get to keep it. It’s the chase that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat, especially because there is always someone out to get Ayesha and that treasure right behind her.
I can’t wait to read more of Ayesha’s pulse-pounding adventures. There must be lots more legendary treasures just waiting to be rediscovered!
The tour includes a Rafflecopter giveaway for a $25. eGift card and a copy of the book!