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Wednesday 3 December 2014

'The Devil's Ark' by Stephen Bywater

Published by Headline,
8 May 2014. 
ISBN 978-1-4722-1039-5

Harry Ward is a photographer who returns to Mesopotamia in 1929. He was there 12 years before when he was in the British army fighting the Turks.  He was hurt in an explosion and while his physical injuries have healed though leaving him marked, his mental scars are still raw.  He suffers nightmares about his war experiences and gradually reveals what these were.  His erotic dreams are also terrifying.

Harry joins a team of archaeologists digging at a ziggurat just outside Nineveh; they include English, American and Russian couples and, of course, many local Arab workers.  The whole story is a first person narrative by Harry.  The archaeological descriptions are very well done and highly evocative of that post World War One period when Carter found Tutankhamen's tomb and Woolley dug up Ur.

The tale moves from archaeological mystery to psychological thriller and finally to horror.  The Biblical and other ancient history and myth is well integrated into the fast developing events.  Reality and imagination mingle so that it is hard to distinguish where the join between them is.

This is, because of its supernatural element, not so much a crime story as it is a work of psychological horror.
Reviewer: Jennifer Palmer
This is Stephen Bywater's first novel.

Stephen Bywater left school at 16 to join the Merchant Navy. He now lives with his family in Bedford, where he teaches English. The Devil's Ark is his first novel.

Jennifer Palmer Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries.

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