Tag Archives: D. J. Niko

King Solomon’s frailties threaten to doom his kingdom

The Judgment, by D. J. Niko. Medallion Press. 292 pages. Trade paperback $14.99.

An ambitious historical novel, The Judgment spans the years 965-925 BCE, the reign of King Solomon after the death of King David. It is a tale of gigantic personalities, huge ambition, fervent nationalism, fragile treaties, and multiple betrayals. Solomon, charged with ruling the united monarchies of the Hebrew people, is also charged with establishing David’s goal of a colossal temple in Jerusalem. It is envisioned as a place with the God of Israel will dwell, and thus its design and materials must match that aspiration.

Daphne Nikolopoulos, photography by Lauren Lieberman / LILA PHOTO

D.J. Niko

Upon visiting Egypt to make a bargain with Pharoah Psusennes II for huge quantities of gold to adorn the Temple, Solomon is smitten by the Egyptian leader’s beautiful daughter, Nicaule. The marriage between the King of the Hebrews and the Pharoah’s daughter creates an allegiance of mutual benefit to both nations. However, Nicaule – who has been forced into the marriage – is resentful of her situation, lavish though it is. She loves another, the Libyan warrior who will in time become Pharaoh Shoshenq I. He, in turn, is most desirous of her.

Nicaule’s resentment at finding herself the virtual slave of what she considers a lesser people whets her appetite for revenge. She uses her considerable sexual prowess to blind Solomon to her schemes to undermine his power. Solomon is shown to be a weak, soft, self-indulgent leader, as well as a man whose behavior suggests a loss of faith.

TheJudgment_cover

Basemath, Nicaule’s daughter by her lover Shoshenq, has been raised as Solomon’s daughter. This subterfuge was Nicaule’s first betrayal.

The novel is structured so that we meet Basemath first. That is, we first see the crisis facing the people of Israel from Egypt’s attack in 925BCE. Then we are taken back to the time of Solomon’s ascent to the throne and follow the action until we catch up with 925BCE once again – and then move forward to the resolution. This is a standard point of attack and it works well for this material.

Basemath is perhaps the only character in the novel who is truly likeable and admirable, yet she is reserved for the opening and closing sections of the novel. Other characters – certain Egyptian and Hebrew military leaders; the estimable high priest (Kohain Gadol) Zadok; the temptress Queen Makeda of Sheba; Nicaule’s friend, attendant, and counselor Irisi – are among those of ongoing interest.  Indeed, Ms. Niko populates her story with a large cast that is needed to fulfill a wide range of functions at upper and lower levels of the principals’ actions. Many are simply go-betweens; others have more important duties. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the May 25, 2016 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the May 26 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, and Palm Beach / West Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – The Judgment

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Past and present intersect in stunning archaeological thriller

The Oracle, by D. J. Niko. Medallion Press. 362 pages. Trade paperback $14.99.

The third installment of the Sarah Weston Chronicles finds Sarah, a British archaeologist, in Thebes. She and anthropologist Daniel Madigan, her professional partner and love interest, are working together (and also apart) helping to investigate the theft of Greek antiquities from a local museum. This theft, however, is not merely the usual pillage for profit. It is more like pillage for prophet! TheOracle

This highly original mystery has several layers and dimensions. Ms. Niko makes it difficult to discern, and for her characters to discern, which actions pose a serious threat and which ones are well-planned distractions to disguise the threat.

Neo-paganism is on the rise in Greece and elsewhere. There is a growing cult threatening to undermine monotheistic culture and religion. The ancient shrines where oracles once uttered the wishes of the deities are being taken over to fuel this resurgence of pagan power.

Or is this activity a complex feint – a way of gaining access to the sacred places of antiquity – places from which an incredible terrorist force can threaten the modern Western world? Certain artifacts and a long-hidden map are the necessary keys that pit the forces of light, represented of course by Daniel and Sarah, against the dark forces – an array of strange bedfellows twisted by raging resentments and driven toward revenge.

Stresses in the relationship between Daniel and Sarah are aggravated by the plotting of those who wish to use them or get them out of the way. Their love for one another is leveraged as a tool to control them, as each fears for the other’s safety and is manipulated by that fear. How can they reunite and lead those who would uncover and stop the greatest, most destructive terrorist effort ever set in motion? One that would literally rattle the world by generating earthquakes?

D. J Niko, photography by Lauren Lieberman / LILA PHOTO

D. J Niko, photography by Lauren Lieberman / LILA PHOTO

Ms. Niko deepens reader involvement by creating a second time line covering a slice of ancient history – 393 CE. Here the forces at work are the Christian suppression of pagan culture and the courageous resistance of the priestess Aristea of Delphi. These chapters are artfully composed, especially the descriptions of place and of Aristea’s state of mind. However, they do not match the highly suspenseful drama of the chapters set in the present. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the November 11, 2015 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the November 12 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte and Palm Beach Gardens / Jupiter editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Oracle

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Past and present collide in Mid-East archaeological thriller

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.  RiddleOfSolomon_front

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!

D. J. Niko

D. J. Niko

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).

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A combination of Coptic mystics, codices, and conspiracy

“The Tenth Saint,” by D. J. Niko. Medallion Press. 420 pages. $14.95.

In her first novel, D. J. Niko establishes Sarah Weston as an appealing character who can easily be carried through the two additional novels already under contract. A fine addition to the growing genre of archeological thrillers, “The Tenth Saint” benefits from Niko’s  persuasive handling of Sarah’s tenacious personality, the remote and exotic Ethiopian setting, conspiracy theories, and romance. Somewhat less persuasive is the time travel element, but that, too, remains at least intriguing. 

Born to wealth and privilege, Cambridge University archeologist Sarah Weston has long shed any debutante sensibilities she may have had. As she leads her research team in a remote mountain area, the ancient kingdom of Aksum, Sarah faces physical risk and hardship unflinchingly. Unexpectedly, she comes across a sealed tomb and unusual inscriptions.

Assisted by American anthropologist Daniel Madigan, she strives to translate the inscriptions and identify the tomb – which is somehow connected with the Coptic Christians and their saintly mystics. The clues take them to Addis Ababa, monasteries in Lalibela (a holy city), and to an underground library housing a codex that is the key to the mysteries of the past – and possibly to those of the future.

Ms. Niko’s narration alternates between the ongoing present that traces Sarah’s hazardous investigation and a remote past (4th century CE) in which an individual at first unidentified and suffering from amnesia is eventually revealed to be the tenth saint of Coptic tradition. He is a Caucasian westerner named Gabriel who has somehow turned up all but entombed under desert sands. Discovered and nursed to health by Bedouins, he becomes part of their community, mastering their medicinal lore. After five years, it becomes clear that he must move on to pursue his gradually revealed mission.

D. J. Niko

The messages left behind by Gabriel  – and echoed by a 14th-century letter which is given to Sarah in Paris – involve poetic prophecies of an apocalypse brought on by human endeavors. There are references, in particular, not only to climate change but also to dangerous initiatives to control its consequences.  While some would wish the apocalyptic vision revealed, others would wish that it remain hidden. Powerful vested interests, including those of Sarah’s father, are at work. What Sarah and Daniel discover brings them many more enemies than friends. . . .

To read this review in its entirety as it appears in the April 12, 2012 issue of Florida Weekly, the April 18 Fort Myers edition, and the April 19 Palm Beach Gardens/Jupiter edition, click here: Florida Weekly – D.J. Niko 1 pdf

For the Q & A with D. J. Niko, click here: Florida Weekly – D.J. Niko 2 pdf

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