Book – The Ancient Curse
Author – Valerio Massimo Manfredi
Year – 2010
Genre – Thriller
Pages – 247
Bought for me by Mum and Dad
Before I really start this review in earnest, I should mention that there will probably be some kind of spoilers in here, so if you intend on reading this book then don’t go beyond this paragraph. However, if you are intending to read the book, then be warned, it is a massive pile of awfulness and you really shouldn’t bother.
The concept behind the book is this – an Italian archaeologist, Fabrizio, arrives in town to study a statue that he thinks he has discovered something very interesting about. He is asked by the director of the museum he is seconded to, to excavate a newly discovered Etruscan tomb while he is there. However, soon everyone associated with the tomb starts to be killed in a horrible way by a massive beast which can seemingly not be killed.
There is such a myriad of problems here, that I am not positive where to start. I suppose I can start with the fact that the book is translated – by the author’s wife – from Italian to English, and it can surely only be that that allows for the fact that things don’t always make sense. People arrive in different places without us being told that they were going somewhere, or it is suddenly and hour later with no indication in the words, or – to use a particular example, which might sound picky but is really just indicative of how the book reads – Manfredi tells us that the female lead covers her face with her hands as she is so upset, despite the fact that we know she is driving a car very fast. Any publisher worth their salt should surely have read the book for errors before charging people £8.99 for it.
This is not the main problem with the book however. The only way that Manfredi is able to keep the plot going, is by having his characters make ridiculous decisions. There is a beast trying to kill Fabrizio and he is terrified of it, but he still keeps running out of his house to wander around the woods by himself – all just so we can see the beast itself. The head policeman, who is important enough to be meeting with Italian cabinet members, runs most of his decisions by Fabrizio, despite him being just an archaeologist. Manfredi’s characters are not incredibly beautifully fleshed out, but even upon that framework so much of what they do is just not believable.
And talking of being unbelievable, the other massive issue is how the whole thing pans out. The front cover of the book has a quote (from the Daily Express, so of course I should have ignored it anyway) which says that Manfredi ‘shows Dan Brown how it should be done’. Now whatever you think of Dan Brown, his books are high energy, and with a plot that – whilst completely unlikely – are theoretically possible. There is always a clever – or at least pseudo-clever – convergence of plot lines to sort the whole thing out. Manfredi tries a different tack with the old ‘lead character has a dream which explains all of the missing plot points, and in the end everything is solved by magic’ which is fine where you are working in a fantasy world inhabited by prophetic dreams and magic, but not so good when you are trying to be Dan Brown, but in Italy. Such a pathetic cop out that destroys the – admittedly tiny – amount of goodwill that you had gathered for the novel in the preceding mess of pages.
I am trying to make an effort to finish as many books as I start this year, and as such I get pretty resentful when a book that claims to be great is actually terribly written. One of the other books that I have not managed to finish yet this year is not that way – it is very, very well written but I am struggling with it due to my preferences being elsewhere – but this book unfortunately suckered me in and wasted some of my reading life. So rest assured, this is the last Manfredi review you will read on this blog.
2/10 (it is still better than Goldust’s autobiography)