The Riddle of Solomon, by D. J. Niko. Medallion Press. 458 pages. $14.95.
Ms. Niko’s archaeological thriller continues the romantic and professional saga of Sarah Weston, a strong-minded, courageous woman determined to make her mark no matter what the risk. Teamed with anthropologist (and love interest) Daniel Madigan, she is working at an archaeological site in Saudi Arabia. They discover a papyrus scroll that holds a riddle. Before they can do much about dating the artifact, translating the hieratic script, and solving the riddle, their expedition is beset by sabotage and violence. The scroll disappears.
The title gives away what patiently emerges in the narrative: they have stumbled upon rarities from the time (10th century B.C.E.) and perhaps the very person of King Solomon. These items and others may have found their way from the Judean hills as part of a caravan that perhaps had a connection with the queen of Sheba. At a time when modern archaeology has largely served to undermine the historical utility of scriptural narrative, this find may lead to the verification and even the elaboration of the majestic stories recounting King David’s aspirations and King Solomon’s achievement.
The investigation leads to heart-pounding adventures in India, Jerusalem, and the rugged Judean region. Slowly, the information gained unlocks pieces of the riddle, revealing that it was indeed written by Solomon to insure the future. The hieratic riddle and a mysterious ring that they discover are connected to a manuscript that is nothing less than the plan for Solomon’s fabled temple.
Several blocking forces are at work: interests that would wish to possess the information and eventual authority of the truths that Sarah and Daniel are pursuing. Paramount among these is the megalomaniacal Trent Sacks, who has been looking for the evidence that would sanction his grand delusion – that he is the inheritor of the royal line that passes from David to Solomon and continues on an obscure path. If Trent is the fulfillment of biblical prophecy about the bloodline from which will spring the Messiah, then he must be . . . You get it!
Author Niko taps into the extreme position in Jewish Orthodoxy that anticipates and sometimes urges on the rebuilding of the ancient temple (or construction of a Third Temple) as a prerequisite for the Messianic Age. Biblical prophesies of purgative catastrophes become battle plans for Sacks, who sees the need to foment the war out of which the divinely ordained peace will arrive. With the wealth of a major energy company at his disposal, along with superlative industrial and military technology, Sacks is ready to mount the Temple Mount as Israel’s savior.
Sarah and Daniel must foil his plans in order to avert calamity. . . .
To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the July 17, 2013 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the July 18 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Palm Beach Gardens/Jupiter editions, click here Florida Weekly – Riddle of Solomon 1 and here Florida Weekly – Riddle of Solomon 2.
Reprinted in the October 2013 issue of the Federation Star (Jewish Federation of Collier County), L’Chayim (Jewish Federation of Lee and Charlotte Counties) and The Jewish News (Jewish Federation of Sarasota / Manatee).