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  • A.E. Santana

Book Review: 'Melia Ridge'

Amateur detective Max Blake and his fiancée Caeli Brown find themselves caught up in an unbridled adventure when they receive a postcard from Caeli’s uncle, the former Archbishop Jack O’Lennox, previously presumed dead. Max, Caeli, and a team of selected allies travel to Rome to infiltrate Vatican City and contact O’Lennox. But getting to Caeli’s uncle is no stroll through church doors. On the run from the corrupted officials of the Catholic Church, Max and his group stumble onto a conspiracy so deep and twisted it may shake the foundation of the Church and American history.

William Florence creates suspense, tension, and excitement throughout Melia Ridge by keeping the stakes high and complicating matters as the story progresses. The novel moves quickly, picking up the pace as the mystery unfolds. How is O’Lennox still alive? What does the Church want with him? With each step forward and new reveal, the situation gets murkier and more complex. Fans of conspiracy theories—especially those involving the Catholic Church and the JFK assassination—will enjoy the surprise turn of events in Melia Ridge.

Melia Ridge is the sixth book in the Max Blake detective series by William Florence, and takes place directly after the previous installment. Information from the last novel is recapped in the first few chapters as the book segues into a new venture. This handling of information is executed in a first-person point of view by protagonist Max Blake as he writes down his exploits memoir style—á la John Watson of Sherlock Holmes fame. Blake, a former reporter and professor of journalism, uses a conversational and relaxed tone, giving an intimate view of his accounts. Florence uses his personal experience as a journalist and professor and pulls from his wealth of knowledge to incorporate interesting details into Max Blake’s character and voice: “I didn’t want to get sidetracked by the theoretical ins and outs of what could take place once we arrived in Rome (I’ve always been a Point A to Point B guy) and tried to bring the discussion back to its beginning” (Florence 2017, 66-67).

Florence’s use of his narrator’s congenial reminiscence works well in balancing the serious and dangerous situations in the book with sarcastic wit and intelligent banter. Getting to know the characters is a mix between Max Blake’s description of them and through their dialog. Melia Ridge is dialog heavy, with most of the action and reveals happening through discussion, but this device sets up funny, entertaining, and telling remarks from the characters.

Since the needed backstory from the previous novels is dropped in with Max Blake’s conversational point of view, the reader is given enough information without bogging down the action. Many chapters begin with Blake organizing his thoughts as he writes, either summarizing the information in the previous chapter or setting up the current action. Florence uses organizational devices to help this cause, such as bullet lists and script dialog. These devices promote the engaging and lively aspect of Max Blake’s account.

With witty and captive dialog, Melia Ridge takes the reader on an exciting, tension-fueled mystery with shocking revelations to keep readers praying for more. Mystery lovers and conspiracy theorists will find Melia Ridge an amusing and enthralling read.

Publisher: WildBlue Press

Cover photo courtesy of WildBlue Press

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