Verdict: Despite some discrepancies in character development and plot, Four Kings is a fast moving mystery and the cliffhanger is enough of a tease to warrant acquiring the next of the four volumes.
James Hale, a history professor, is drawn into a world of mystery and dangerous manipulation, when he begins to investigate the murder of his close friend, Aaron Miller. Chief Inspector Darley and Miller’s daughter Stephanie also become unwitting players and pawns in the game of deceit and even with great cunning, it looks as though the three of them are not going to win against their opponent – the Illuminati.
When Stephanie Miller can’t find her father, she turns to their family friend, James Hale to help her. When Hale and Stephanie find her father, he is dead and there is a playing card next to his body. When Hale then discovers another playing card by another dead body, he believes that he is being set up by a copy cat murderer; however Hale and Chief Inspector Darley soon discover that the three of them aren’t up against a single murderer, but rather the enigmatic world of the Illuminati and its all encompassing power. Hale, Darley and Miller are on the run and in hiding as they try to figure out who is behind the murders and how to stay alive long enough to bring the murderers to justice.
Four Kings has a strong start that sets an intimidating and conspiratorial tone for the rest of the story, which is entertaining and intriguing. However there are irksome aspects of this novel, which include the romance between Miller’s daughter Stephanie and Hale; overused images and expressions (Stephanie is described in several consecutive chapters using variations of the phrase “her heart pounded”) and some odd choices for plot development. The attraction between Stephanie and Hale is very contrived and rather than create sexual tension and add another dimension to the character, it is inconsistent with the characters – Stephanie who is a strong female character who is out to avenge her father’s death becomes a shallow, insecure woman when Hale will not return her affections, and Hale looks like a letch “He licked his lips. He had a hard time concentrating”. Another example of incompatibility in the story is Stephanie hiding out in a hotel room. She is on the phone with Hale when there is a knock on her door. She asks if he wants to stay on the phone while she checks who is there, but he declines – even though he knows she is in danger and she is not expecting anyone. Though the inconsistency works to allow for the plot development, it is an obvious inconsistency in an otherwise very acute and aware character.
Despite some discrepancies in character development and plot, Four Kings is a fast moving mystery and the cliffhanger is enough of a tease to warrant acquiring the next of the four volumes.
Reviewed by Maya Fleischmann for IndieReader.com 2011
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