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The Magic Circle

Neville’s reach exceeds her grasp by a long shot in her chaotic third novel (after The Eight and A Calculated Risk), a bewildering attempt to blend historical fiction, New Age adventure and modern techno-thriller. Utah nuclear technician Ariel Behn receives a set of mysterious manuscripts from her Native American cousin Sam, who has narrowly survived their attempted theft. As possessor of the scrolls, Ariel finds her life in similar danger, especially after her company sends her to Russia with handsome, mysterious Wolfgang Hauser. During a torrid affair with Wolfgang, Ariel comes to suspect that he may be after the scrolls himself. At the same time, various members of her glamorous, far-flung family inform her that Hitler, Genghis Khan and the ancient Romans all sought the scrolls, which seem to hold the key to a secret power grid beneath the earth. Alternating family history with thorny historical passages, Neville brings the narrative back to Utah for a ludicrous wilderness showdown among the scrolls’ pursuers. Neville has buried a decent story in so many expository layers of far-fetched historical gibberish and New Age nonsense that even her most devoted readers may find themselves exasperated.

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