The Hidden Key
A Steve Stilwell Thriller #3
David E. Grogan
Camel Press, April 2020
Having never read David E. Grogan’s previous books, when I finished this one, I read reviews of Sapphire Pavilion and The Siegel Dispositions. Having done so I discovered I am definitely in a minority when it comes to Grogan’s books. Praise for those previous stories abounds but I just could not get on board (no pun intended). I found both the story and the writing not even close to believable including his use of verbs that just did not match the emotions being communicated.
The Hidden Key begins with two men breaking into the home of a former Navy Seabee looking for an artifact, a clay tablet stolen from Iraq, that he advertised for sale on the internet. Unbelievable violence ensues when the Seabee denies any knowledge of the artifact. This is just the beginning of the body count.
About a week later Steve Stilwell, a lawyer in Virginia and a retired Navy JAG officer, meets a prospective client for dinner in London, having been contacted by the man and asked to join him in London as soon as possible. The prospective client wants to hire Stilwell to probate his estate in the US. As they are discussing the matter, two armed men enter the restaurant and the client ends up dead. Stilwell later discovers that the client has wills in the US, India, and Italy but his job involves only the one in the US. However, in addition to his will, the client has left specific instructions as to how cash he left in a safe deposit box was to be distributed and where he was to be buried, specifying that his wife in India might not agree to either but he wanted his wishes honored.
Of course, the man’s wife needed to be informed of these instructions so Stilwell’s law partner, Casey, a former Army helicopter pilot, is dispatched to India to meet with her. Despite a warm welcome from the woman, Casey ends up being attacked after their meeting. Meanwhile, Stilwell has gone to Italy to meet with his client’s mistress where, perhaps you guessed it, more violence and murders ensue. Meanwhile, the artifact that started this whole venture has been found, then lost, then found again. It turns out that the artifact is a map to the Garden of Eden. And, oh yes, the FBI, New Scotland Yard, and the Italian Carabinieri (because of a heist of the Shroud of Turin) are also involved.
Because I found this book beyond fantastical, I cannot recommend it but if you liked Grogan’s previous books you will probably like this one too.
Reviewed by Melinda Drew, April 2020.