The Apocalypse Fire revolves around the Skoptsy, a dark and mysterious Russian religious cult. The Skoptsy seeks to amass genuine religious artefacts which justify a mass suicide at the site of the Cathars’ 13th Century last stand, Le Chateau de Montsegur. Ava – a former Secret Intelligence Service agent now working as an archaeologist at the British Museum – is swiftly recruited into the top secret MI13 to track down the thieves of the Turin Shroud in an adventure which (assisted by members of the Vatican’s secret service and UK government contractors) takes her to various parts of Europe and into contact with the Order of Malta.
The introduction to the main character is adequate, but, with very little mention of her previous life throughout the book, her personality has holes. The narrative shifts quickly into the plot, and the fast pace of the story continues throughout; the book is constructed in the style of Gerald Seymour and Frederick Forsyth, but fails to sufficiently develop the converging storylines. This is frustrating; the stories and characters – which appear in abundance early on – pique the reader’s interest. They have potential for development and depth but turn out to be superficial as the author skims over them to get back to the main character.
The author’s research is sound, but the reader needs to look elsewhere to develop understanding of the fascinating topics mentioned in the story. I found myself looking online for details of the Order of Malta and the Skoptsy, and was left wondering how various characters were connected to Durov, the Skoptsy’s evil eunuch leader. In short, the book needs to be either far longer to allow sufficient subject studies and explain the introduction of several characters, or far shorter, with far fewer characters involved.
It is, however, an entertaining read; Selwood is one to watch for the future but he is not yet producing Dan Brown standard novels, something to which he appears to aspire.