Nina Wilde, all-action archaeologist, has put away her pony-tail following the pyrrhic conclusion of a previous adventure and languishes in professional disgrace. Her ex-SAS husband Eddie Chase, a balding Yorkshireman with a weak line in post-kill puns, makes ends meet as a bodyguard to the stars. Things are slow, but soon they'll run into Macy Sharif, "a broomstick with two watermelons taped to it". She knows the secret of the Sphinx and the evil international cult of Osiris is after her.
What to say about a book that features a thirty-page car chase through central New York? If that doesn't sound good, this isn't the book for you! This is an action movie in paper form, more National Treasure than the Da Vinci Code, and it delivers on its promise. McDermott's very good keeping things moving while keeping them clear, always a tough balance to strike in describing action sequences. The fantasy elements are minor, so in that sense it may not be of huge interest to BFS members (for whom this review was originally written), and it's not challenging, or deep, or original, but unlike its vicious but incompetent bad guys it hits nearly all its targets.
The banter is rather clunky and centres too often on Macy's breasts, but the book is fast-moving, hopping from New York to Giza in the turn of a page, tremendously exciting, and satisfyingly brutal to its villains. It wears its influences on its sleeves, with Bond, Lara Croft and Indiana Jones all getting namechecks, and is in general rather sweet-natured: the leads are very much in love, and, just like in The A-Team, innocents usually get time to crawl to safety before anything explodes. And lots of things explode: McDermott uses every dollar of a book's unlimited budget for pyrotechnics.
The book ends with a thirty-page preview of the next in the series, which promises more of the same.
The Cult of Osiris, Andy McDermott, Headline, pb, 500pp.