Robert Masello, Author . Berkley $7.99 (456p) ISBN 978-0-425-21280-6

In his latest, Masello lets loose a stable of thriller stereotypes and drives them hastily, but not unskillfully, through a sprawling adventure story complete with shady foreigners, ancient codes and terrible monsters. Sinister Iraqi zillionaire Mohammad Al-Kalli hires Beth Cox, a medieval manuscript expert, to translate and restore his family's thousand-year-old bestiary, a medieval compendium of mythical animals painstakingly copied out by monks, replete with Da Vinci Code –style hidden messages couched in dead languages. As it turns out, the creatures catalogued there—a mix of Jurassic Park– like prehistoric monsters—are all too real and held in Al-Kalli's secret menagerie, which Beth's paleontologist husband has been hired, also by Al-Kalli, to study.. Masello throws into the mix an Elmore Leonardesque lowlife who's trying to blackmail Al-Kalli, a 24 -style terrorist plot to immolate Los Angeles, Tom Clancyesque weapons specs ("the Beretta... featured a delayed locking block system, which provided a faster cycle time and exceptional accuracy"), an eerily sleepless infant à la The Ring and a spooky original touch in the 9,000-year-old corpse dredged out of L.A.'s La Brea tar pits. Masello has a difficult time keeping together all these busy, dissonant subplots, but even if they don't mesh, each one is a well-wrought genre turn with colorful characters and punchy writing. The result is a diverting trip that may make you think twice before going back to the zoo. (Dec.)

Reviewed on: 10/23/2006
Release date: 11/01/2006
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 464 pages - 978-1-4362-8541-4
Open Ebook - 464 pages - 978-1-4362-8413-4
Open Ebook - 464 pages - 978-1-4406-2390-5
MP3 CD - 978-1-5159-5593-1
Compact Disc - 978-1-5159-0593-6
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