cover image The Showstone

The Showstone

Glenn Cooper. Severn, $29.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7278-8893-8

Cooper’s labored fourth Cal Donovan thriller (after 2018’s The Debt) finds Donovan, a Harvard religion professor with handy combat skills, distraught after learning that his mother, Bess, was tied up and strangled in her Manhattan apartment. The motive for the murder is baffling to Donovan and the police, as the culprit took none of Bess’s valuables. The reader, however, is ahead of them both. A prologue, set 30 years earlier in 1989 Iraq, shows Donovan’s archaeologist father, Hiram, unearthing an unusual piece of obsidian, which he covertly mails to Bess for safekeeping. Shortly afterward, a thug in the employ of businessman George Hamid breaks Hiram’s neck. Hamid eventually learns where Hiram sent the stone, leading to the fatal, and unsuccessful, search of Bess’s residence. Donovan gets the rock after a friend goes through his mother’s closet and finds it in a shoebox. He later discovers that it’s allegedly a showstone, which can yield spiritual visions that were once studied by Elizabethan alchemist and astrologer John Dee. Hamid’s continued and bloody quest for the MacGuffin follows a predictable and boring course. This is further proof that Dan Brown’s coattails can carry imitators only so far. [em](Nov.) [/em]