I’ve championed Irish author, Laurence o’Bryan’s thriller series from the start. I have a soft spot for historical thrillers, and I’ve found O’Bryan’s writing to be fast paced and incredibly easy to engage with. I thoroughly enjoyed the second book in the series, The Jerusalem Puzzle, and it left me craving more. I had this last book in the trilogy pre-ordered as soon as it became available, and I zipped through the book much quicker than I expected.
Readers may be aware of the continuous theme of the discovered manuscript/puzzle in this series, which has caused Sean Ryan and his now wife, Isabel Sharp some grueling experiences along the way. From being attacked by eels, to discovering burnt bodies, kidnapped, locked inside caves in the middle of nowhere … Let’s just say, Sean and Isabel haven’t had the most easiest of relationships. And The Manhattan Puzzle isn’t about to let up on the duo anytime soon!
When Sean doesn’t return home from working at a bank, Isabel starts to worry. They have a nice romantic weekend planned in Paris to look forward to. But Isabel has a niggling in the back of her mind that something is amiss. As she starts to search for him, Isabel finds herself being dragged to Manhattan on his trail, but when she discovers that their son, Alek has been kidnapped, things really start to heat up. Plus, Sean has been accused of murder too. Isabel knows that the bank is trying to hide something, something serious. What she isn’t aware of, is how that blasted symbol she and Sean unearthed in Istanbul will come back to haunt her, testing her courage as well as her love for her husband.
You know what? Good on Laurence O’Bryan. I bet it took some guts to completely turn the series on its head and write it from Isabel’s perspective. I think it works perfectly, and actually I found her character had much more genuine emotion. I connected so much more with Isabel, which is exactly what’s needed here. You need to feel her frustration at not being able to find her husband. You urge her on to not give up, to get to the bottom of it all. God only knows what I would have done in her situation. Isabel’s chain of thinking, her paranoia and her blind faith are all respectable as well as very readable.
Of course, you are also reintroduced to some of the side characters as well here. Xena, Lord Bidoner as well as Henry the MI5 style man get plenty of focus. I think this is what really makes these thrillers stand out – especially when compared to the likes of Dan Brown and Raymond Khoury, whose books each tell a different story, with different characters. The long running storyline of the puzzle, as well as discovering the true nature of both Xena and Lord Bidoner is very pleasing. I actually really liked Xena’s character. She was clever and intriguing, and bound to be hiding so much more in that quiet exterior.
The Manhattan Puzzle isn’t void of action either. I mean within the first few pages someone is brutally castrated, and a stripper found murdered. As to be expected with thrillers like this with religious aspects, sacrifice and ritual killing isn’t original, but it is exciting and it captures your attention. How could it not? And to be honest, with the murders, as well as the chase scenes, I found everything rather realistic and authentic, which is also a major plus. I’ll also reveal the word ‘rats’ to you too and let you look out for that part yourselves.
To be honest, I actually found The Manhattan Puzzle to be the best book in the series and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I can hardly fault it – it had be hooked! If I were to find a downside, I would have to say the actual solving of the ‘puzzle’ was a bit rushed. I only wish that bit was a bit better explained and more explored. I mean this puzzle has baffled the antagonists for ages, and runs through three books, just to be solved in what two paragraphs near the end?
With constant updates and referencing, The Manhattan Puzzle can be read without the need to read the previous two books, but I strongly suggest against that. You need to be familiar with the characters’ backgrounds as well as the motives of Lord Bidoner, and I think having read the previous two book in the Puzzle series only heightened my enjoyment of this. It’s so easy to get in to, and Isabel is the true star in here. Her anger at Sean for not coming home is least of her concerns when it all kicks off, and believe me when I say that you won’t look back.
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