“The Manhattan Puzzle” by Laurence O’Bryan: where ancient rituals and 21st centry finance crash head-on
The opening chapter of “The Manhattan Puzzle” kicked me right in the face. That’s part of what this novel did to me as a whole: it doesn’t beat around the bush. It gets to the point. Yes, you can read “The Manhattan Puzzle” independently from the previous two “puzzle” novels by Laurence O’Bryan – I know because I started with this one. Don’t ask me why; I guess this title appealed the most to me. The promise of something hidden in the history of Manhattan and the involvement of modern times bankers was inviting to me. I read all sorts of fiction, though this genre is new to me. “The Manhattan Puzzle” has a kind of gothic quality; an unmistakable violence, a web of intrigue involving both ancient -and bloody- rituals and 21st century finance. That works out compelling here. Several things work out in favor of O’Bryan: he opens in the middle of serious and tone setting action; his chapters are short, sometimes even ultra; the action is almost continuous; and there’s certainly a puzzle that’s in need of solving and that gives the story its forward momentum. There’s this weird and attractive mixture of shock-story developments on the one hand and Wall Street calamity economics on the other. Bloody murder, and then all of a sudden there’s a slice of daily, post-Lehman life. The end comes appropriately in apocalyptic form. And although I had been anticipating someting radical – the novel builds up to that – I certainly didn’t see this one coming. I must say the end worked well for me, because it was gross by my personal standards and it sure gave all control to the author. Of course I haven’t read the previous “The Jerusalem Puzzle” and “The Istanbul Puzzle”, so it’s probably not up to me to judge all character developments here. In my opinion, if you’re looking for a thrilling, entertaining novel to read between more serious stuff, a novel that reads like a movie on paper, and is downright creepy at times, “The Manhattan Puzzle” could work for you. See what you think.