Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Summoner by Layton Green

Title: The Summoner
Author: Layton Green
ISBN: 9781456546861
Publisher:  Createspace, 2011
Paperback, 332 pages
Genre: Thriller, #1 Dominic Grey
Rating: B
Source: the author

First Line: The only thing Dominic Grey knew for certain about the disappearance of William Addison was that it was the strangest case to which he had ever been assigned.

Dominic Grey, a Diplomatic Security special agent in Zimbabwe, is assigned to investigate the case of a U.S. diplomat who has disappeared in front of hundreds of onlookers while attending a religious ceremony. Helping Grey in the investigation are Nya Mashumba, a Zimbabwe government liaison, and Professor Viktor Radek, an expert on cults. The course of his investigation leads him into the dark and violent heart of an ancient religion, and one of its priests-- a man seemingly able to perform the impossible. From the moment their search began, the lives of all three are in grave danger.

Although The Summoner got off to a slow start for me, the pace gained speed in the last half as did my enjoyment. Dominic Grey is an interesting character whose childhood spent living with an abusive father has made him reluctant to form attachments to others. Grey has a strict moral code that he refuses to relax for anyone, and that doesn't make him a favorite with his superiors at the embassy.

One of the reasons why I found the book to be slow at first is that Grey is told not to do anything without Nya Mashumba's approval or presence-- and Nya's concept of keeping in touch and being punctual leave much to be desired. Professor Radek also disappears on his own business and cannot be reached. Since I have about as much patience as Dominic Grey, it felt as though I spent the first half of the book cooling my heels in a doctor's office.  However, once Nya's motivations are made clear, the floodgates of plot and character opened, and I couldn't read fast enough.

The setting of Zimbabwe was oftentimes heart-breaking, the ancient religion was downright scary, and Green's main characters of Grey and Radek are two that I want to meet again.

As a matter of fact, the second Dominic Grey book, The Egyptian, has been released today, and for this weekend only the author is selling the eBook versions of both The Summoner and The Egyptian for 99¢ apiece. This is a marvelous opportunity for all you folks with eReaders to discover a good new writer at very little cost!


  1. Cathy - Thanks for this fine review. I'm interested in reading more about Dominic Grey, myself. I was actually very much drawn into the setting in this case, heartbreaking as it is. For me, that was a real "selling point;" Green does that very well. I'll have to check out The Egyptian.

  2. Hi Cathy, I didn't mind the slow start. I was too caught up in the details as Green established the setting, the character's backstory, Vadic's description of phenomenology. Thanks for the heads up about the availability of The Egyptian. I just satisfied my need for instant gratification by downloading it to my Kindle.

  3. I'm hearing a lot of buzz about this book. I'll have to remember that it starts out slowly.

  4. I am glad that this one picked up for you, and it seems like you really enjoyed it. I have to admit that the premise sounds interesting to me, and like something that I perhaps would like to check out. Great review on this one!

  5. Margot-- The setting was a selling point for me as well.

    Mack-- Great, I'm glad I could satisfy that need!

    Kathy-- Good idea!

    Zibilee-- Thanks!

  6. Regarding the issue of a slow start to The Summoner. It is an interesting observation and one I've been keeping in mind lately when I start a new book (like The Egyptian). In the case of The Summoner, I'd say that the author took the right approach. Considering the setting and the paranoid nature of Mugabe's government, it would be unrealistic for Dominic to strap on a gun and charge into his own investigation James bond style unless the author wanted to make US/Zimbabwean government conflict a main point.

    Nya's lateness is also consistent with the culture. "Africa Time" is a real phenomenon.

    So, my take, for what its worth, is that Green wanted to be as accurate as he could be while writing a thriller.

  7. Mack-- I wouldn't expect him to strap on a gun and charge into things either, especially in a political situation such as that. And I do understand the concept of Africa Time, since we have a thing called Navajo Time here in Arizona.

    Green undoubtedly took the correct approach, but when I'm reading a book and stop several times to look at the cover and wonder when I'm going to start learning characters' motivations and the like, I become uneasy. The strange religious ceremonies weren't enough to keep me turning the pages.

    Nya in particular fascinated me every bit as much as her refusal to keep appointments maddened me. I'm glad that Green didn't keep me waiting one page longer to discover why she was the way she was!

  8. Cathy, this is one of the great things about book review blogs. It's like a mini-book club with varied responses to the same book.

    I'm with you on Nya, an interesting and complex character. Early in the book she an internal conflict at being sent to evaluate an area for "clearing". Mbare, I think. I recommend readers do a search on "Operation Restore Order" or Operation Murambatsvina to see why this task has such an impact on her.

  9. Mack-- Thanks for the tip. If I had to participate in something like that, it would have a profound impact on me as well.

  10. Good book and review. My few cents... If you like books like this, you might also enjoy "Miss Garrote".


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