Friday, June 30, 2006

DUST JACKETS: The Medici Dagger

About two years before Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code hit it big, another thriller inspired by the genius of Leonardo da Vinci arrived in bookstores. The book is Cameron West’s The Medici Dagger.

The premise of this book is that in 1491 da Vinci crafted a weapon called the Medici Dagger, made from a revolutionary metal, indestructible and incredibly light. In modern times, the race is on to find the dagger. The bad guys want to unlock the secrets of the dagger to make a fortune in the illegal arms market. The hero for this action adventure is stuntman Reb Barnett whose father’s mysterious death in a fire when Reb was a child ties into the search for this ancient weapon.

For anyone who hated The Da Vinci Code, because of the quality of the writing, please never ever try to read The Medici Dagger. Not only is the writing very poor, but this story reads like a bad James Bond adventure, complete with pointless action sequences and the obligatory sexy female romantic interest who can’t quite be trusted. The most memorable moment for me in reading this book is when the main character, having gone quite long without any sleep, runs his car off the road and spins out of control. The point of this scene? Beyond proving what a really cool stunt driver the main character is (he keeps the car from crashing)… not much. I borrowed this book from the Barnes & Noble where I was working at the time because the premise was promising, but all I could think was, “Thank God I didn’t spend money on this.” It’s not often I’ll bash a book this harshly, but I’m afraid The Medici Dagger earns it. That said, for anyone just after a quick read with enough testosterone to choke a T-rex, this book is for you.

One positive thing I can say about this book is that you can tell West enjoyed writing it. He doesn’t try to do anything but be himself. Perhaps the most humorous thing about this book is that the main character is clearly West in disguise. West offers some fun insights into the movie biz, but you can’t help but think this sneak peak is a bit skewed to make the main character look really good. In real life, West has worked as a stunt double for actor Tom Cruise in numerous films, and there’s clearly a character in the early part of the book meant to represent Cruise. Even funnier, in light of the meltdown of the Cruise-Nicole Kidman marriage, is when we’re treated to a scene with the actor and his wife praising Reb for his excellent stunt work. Hard to read this and not chuckle as we’re treated to a look at the “happy couple.”

In my recent “Dust Jackets” entry for The Da Vinci Code, I mentioned how one literary agent suggested part of that book’s success might be owed to how it makes the reader feel smart. Anyone reading The Medici Dagger will not suffer from this side effect or anything similar to it.

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