The Summoner (Dominic Grey, Book #1)
by Layton Green
Release Date: December 8, 2010 (Ebook Version)
March 7, 2011 (Paperback Version)
E-Book Edition; 301 Pages (95 000 Words)
Source: Review Copy from Author
4.5 / 5 Stars
A United States diplomat disappears in front of hundreds of onlookers while attending a religious ceremony in the bushveld of Zimbabwe.
Dominic Grey, Diplomatic Security special agent, product of a violent childhood and a worn passport, is assigned to investigate. Aiding the investigation is Professor Viktor Radek, religious phenomenologist and expert on cults, and Nya Mashumba, the local government liaison.
What Grey uncovers is a terrifying cult older than Western civilization, the harsh underbelly of a country in despair, a demagogic priest seemingly able to perform impossibilities, and the identity of the newest target.
The Summoner was a fascinating, absorbing read; it was particularly fascinating for me because it took place in Zimbabwe and I learned quite a bit about a culture of which I am not that familiar and I found it quite interesting. The novel had that little bit of everything, political atmosphere, anthropological and religious discussions, adventure and suspense, and even a bit of romance, at just the right amounts, that made the reading experience fun and captivating. I really had a hard time putting this one down.
Dominic Grey is a character after my own heart. Coming from an extremely difficult childhood, he has had to cope with abuse and a lightning-quick temper all of his life. Finally feeling at home in Zimbabwe, and working for the American Embassy, Dominic still feels constrained by the limits that are imposed upon him, and constantly pushes at those limits in order to get at the truth. I loved this man's sarcastic wit and tough-guy persona, yet at the same time, he definitely has a vulnerable side that is very much evident as the scenes unfold and with those people who are either unfortunate or helpless.
The setting of the story is a wonderful one, if one that is tragic as well. While I follow politics, and know to a limited extent what is happening in Zimbabwe, this novel made it more personal and made the plight of the people that much more tragic. It is a great example of what a government's greed can do to a country that was once doing well economically, and bring everything crashing down around it in a matter of years. The large-scale destruction certainly runs through everything that Dominic and Nya do, and while their case may seem to be small-scale in the grand scheme of things, it is hindered by everything and everyone around them. The descriptions of life in Zimbabwe were very well-written, and while there was no holding back in their forthright nature, there was still an element of hope in their message and in their nature. The author mentions he spent time in Zimbabwe and the light of the people who live there certainly shone through in his writing.
While there were some elements to the plot that were predictable, and it didn't take me long to figure out who the Babalawo was in the story, there were enough other twists and unpredictable elements that it made this novel extremely interesting and fun to read. Everyone was keeping enough secrets to keep me seriously interested in the events, and I don't even feel like everything was revealed. The ending resolved itself satisfactorily, if not to what I expected, but that is the fun of a novel like this, and the unexpected ending was a delightful surprise, at least to me.
The Summoner was an intriguing read that introduced me to some rather interesting and fascinating characters that I hope to re-visit in Layton Green's next novel, The Egyptian. I enjoyed the descriptions of Zimbabwe and learned a lot about a culture of which I was not wholly familiar and as an intrepid historian and cultural anthropologist, this is something I really enjoy. With an abundant of research involved in this novel, it is evident that Mr. Green isn't afraid to lay it out on the line, and give us a story that pushes the boundaries of our skepticism and make us really think. The fast-paced action, abundant twists and turns also make it one of those novels that is difficult to put down, and I would highly recommend this novel to anyone looking for a brilliantly written novel from an author who is able to blend a variety of elements into an engaging whole.