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Who Guards a Prince, by Reginald Hill

November 25, 2013

Felonies of the Week: Conspiracy Thrillers

Everybody loves a good conspiracy theory. Well, at least I do. And in recognition of the Events in Dallas – which gave rise, of course, to what is arguably the greatest set of conspiracy theories in the known world – we are this week offering a 25% discount on not one but three swell conspiracy-theory thrillers.

First up is Reginald Hill’s fabulous Who Guards a Prince, almost certainly my favorite of his non-series novels. (Our title, by the way, reverts to the original British; when the book first came out in the U.S., it was given the dumbed-down title of Who Guards the Prince? I figured our readers were smart enough to handle the version that Mr. Hill intended.) The baddies, here, are Freemasons – catnip for the conspiracy-minded – and protagonist Doug McHarg has a blunt, rough-hewn aspect that may remind some readers of a certain Mr. Dalziel.

Next is The Peking Man is Missing, which is in fact based on one of history’s most fascinating – and true – unsolved mysteries. But wait, there’s more. The novel’s ripped-from-the-headlines appeal gets a significant boost from the fact that the author, Claire Tashdjian, actually played a role in the mystery’s unfolding: The novel is essentially her speculation as to how it might have played out. But over the years – the mystery dates back to 1941 – there have been any number of speculations, and we’ve included both an essay on the various theories and a second essay – by a noted paleontologist – on the history of the Peking Man fossils. Plus some never-before-published photographs of Ms. Tashdjian in China. The book is what you might call a complete package.

And finally, we couldn’t even pretend to nod to JFK without showcasing The Cambridge Theorem, Tony Cape’s spectacularly twisty novel about a depressed grad student who amuses himself by applying mathematical logic to questions like Who Killed Kennedy. When the student is found hanging from a short rope, it’s assumed that his personal demons simply won the day. But one cranky cop has a different idea. We love this sneaky stunner, and not least because one of Mr. Cape’s imagined solutions turns out – some years after he wrote it – to have been very close to the truth.

Finally finally, we don’t sell it, but if you’re a real conspiracy buff, grab yourself a copy of Them, by Jon Ronson, about the couple of years that Ronson spent hanging out with conspiracy-theorists of various stripes. Who else is going to tell you the truth about the giant Jewish lizards from outer space?

 

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