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The Last Ember: 09/23/10
A couple of people recommended The Last Ember to me after I blogged about enjoying The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown. Both described the book as a "Jewish Dan Brown mystery." After having read it, my response to that recommendation is yes and no.
There's an ancient mystery that surfaces when a very well preserved body is found. Jonathan Marcus, an archeologist studying at the American Academy in Rome is called into help. The discovery gives clues that leads him and others on a race to find the Tabernacle Menorah.
So on the surface, The Last Ember shares a similar set up and plot structure. There's a lot of racing around famous spots in Italy. There are rival factions who want the same treasure for their own nefarious reasons. And there's a lot of tangential discussion of ancient facts.
Dan Brown's books are silly. Although they are just as predictable as The Last Ember ended up being, they are over the top and fun to read. I figured out the location of the treasure and the person who would end up being the most knowledgeable and important character of the ensemble when he first showed up. In the case of The Last Ember, it made reading the remainder of the book (about 2/3) tedious to read.
I don't read Dan Brown's books because they are serious mysteries. I read them because they're like Hardy Boys books for grown ups. They start with a real place, a real piece of art and then they throw in madcap adventures, ridiculous pseudo-science and all sorts of other malarkey. The Last Ember was presented much too seriously to be any fun even though the basic mystery was just as simplistic and cheesy as a typical Dan Brown book.