When I saw The Lightning Stones by bestselling author Jack Du Brul, I couldn’t resist it. An adventure featuring a geologist/spy coupled with more mystery surrounding what became of Amelia Earhardt and why, and all wrapped up in a nail-biting thriller. WooHoo! Sounded like a Popcorn Read to me and I couldn’t wait. Jack Du Brul has written a number of novels with Clive Cussler, in addition to Du Brul’s own bestselling novels. That said, Du Brul is no Cussler clone, having made his mark on the adventure/thriller genre long before he began writing with Cussler. If you like non-stop action adventures then read on because I’m betting this is your kind of thriller.
Like a lot of things for Phillip Mercer, this story begins in a mine a few thousand feet below the ground. Mercer knew his old mentor, Abe Jacobs, was leading a climate change research team conducting experiments in the Minnesota mine and decided to pay him a visit for old time’s sake. And, of course, Mercer was also curious about what the team was finding. They say timing is everything and that’s definitely the case here. If Mercer had been just a few minutes earlier or a few minutes later getting there, everything might have been very different.
“The incongruity of hearing suppressed gunfire in an underground mine didn’t slow Mercer’s reflexes. He had launched himself over the transporter’s bed even before the machine pistols went silent. He snuggled up to the wheeled train as best he could, snapping off his miner’s lamp and peering into the darkness between the close-set tires. His body was awash in adrenaline and his heart rate was spiking, and yet he was able to keep his breathing calm and deliberate…
Screams echoed from the entrance, followed by another burst from the machine pistols. Mercer saw the shadow of flickering light, the telltale muzzle flash of autofire.
This time when the weapons fell silent, there were no more screams. He had no idea what was happening and wished it was some elaborate joke, but he knew it wasn’t.”
As he approached the tunnel where the team was working, he heard the kind of rapid gunfire only automatic weapons can make. Even though he raced ahead, he was too late to save Jacobs or his team members. All had been slaughtered. The only thing left to Mercer is to follow the assassins as quietly and quickly as he can back out of the mine to try to find out why the unthinkable happened. Why would someone systematically mow down climate change scientists? It doesn’t make any sense.
Mercer follows a trail of bread crumbs around the world, always seeming just one or two steps ahead or sometimes behind the mysterious team of assassins. What he doesn’t realize is that this whole mystery ties back to last-minute cargo Amelia Earhardt accepted in 1937, while making a fuel stop in Papua New Guinea, just before her plane mysteriously disappeared…a cargo of odd crystals known as the lightning stones.
“Just enough light from the downstairs lounge reached the hallway for Amelia to see that Mike Dillman looked like he’d just crawled from the grave…she couldn’t think of a circumstance where this man and Bert Hoover traveled in the same circles, and yet Bert had vouched for this cadaverous stranger and had asked that she perform a favor for them both. She would have ignored the request had it come from a less important person, and seeing Dillman firsthand, she still might.”
“’Is that what Bert wants me to fly to Hawaii?’
‘Yes, a representative from the Navy will meet you when you land and take possession of the trunk.’
‘I could fly it all the way to Oakland,’ she said.
‘No. There will be too much publicity when you land there. Crowds can be controlled easier in Honolulu. Also, this needs to be put in safekeeping as soon as possible. It attracts lightning, Miss Earhardt. I have it shielded as best I can, but you must avoid electrical storms.’”
Phillip Mercer is an interesting character – not quite Indiana Jones but along the same vein. The Lightning Stones is filled with spies, FBI agents, mercenaries, assassins, a femme fatale or two, and…well, you get it…classic action adventure characters who drive the plot forward. The lightning stones are also a character, having a profound effect on anyone who comes in contact with them – and they are the MacGuffin around which the entire adventure revolves.
Action/adventure novel fans know that the adventure is the story driver and that’s true in Jack Du Brul’s The Lightning Stones. Novels like this one are not normally driven by in-depth character studies or relationships, even though the loss of Mercer’s mentor and friend is what launches the adventure. Adventure novels should be high-flying non-stop rollercoaster rides and this one definitely scores in that department. It was one hell of a fun read and exactly what I was looking for to distract me from the stresses of renovation work. And it took me all around the world in the process. There’s nothing like a good armchair adventure with globetrotting and nefarious villains. So bring on the popcorn because I think action/adventure readers like me are going to have a blast reading it!
Can’t wait to read The Lightning Stones? It was published on August 11, 2015, so it’s available from your favorite online bookseller. Just click on the link below to get it. And if you get it downloaded as an e-book, you can have it to read instantly!
I’d love to get your comments on The Lightning Stones , Jack Du Brul and/or his other work, and/or this review.
Want to know more about the back story for the main character in The Lightning Stones? The author has reprinted a fun interview with Phillip Mercer on his web site. Click here to read it.