Saturday, June 28, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Final Theory by Mark Alpert

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Final Theory by Mark Alpert. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Final Theory by Mark AlpertBuy from

Final Theory by

Touchstone Books (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-4165-7287-2 (1416572872)
ISBN-13: 978-1-4165-7287-9 (9781416572879)
Publication Date: June 2008
List Price: $24.00

Synopsis (from the publisher): David Swift, a professor at Columbia University, is called to the hospital to comfort his mentor, a physicist who's been brutally tortured. Before dying, the old man wheezes "Einheitliche Feldtheorie." The Theory of Everything. The Destroyer of Worlds. Could this be Einstein's proposed Unified Theory--a set of equations that combines the physics of galaxies with the laws of atoms? Einstein died without discovering it. Or did he? Within hours of hearing his mentor's last words, David is running for his life. The FBI and a ruthless mercenary are vying to get their hands on the long-hidden theory. Teaming up with his old girlfriend, a brilliant Princeton scientist, David frantically works out Einstein's final theory to reveal the staggering scope of its consequences.

Review: Mark Alpert crafts a thrilling quest in search of Einstein's final theory, the one that unites the forces of the universe into a single set of equations, in the aptly titled Final Theory, an exciting if rather routine novel that seems destined for the silver screen.

David Swift is a historian who has written the definitive guide to the physicists who studied under Albert Einstein. David, who once studied physics under one of these physicists, Hans Kleinman, is summoned to his hospital bed after he was found near dead, tortured. With his dying breath, he relates a fantastic tale that Einstein had developed the final theory, the Einheitliche Feldtheorie, but suppressed its publication. He recites a code, a sequence of numbers, to David then dies. As David tries to leave the hospital, he's taken into custody by the FBI. Escaping, he's pursued by both the FBI and an unknown hit man who's also determined to know exactly what David knows. It isn't until David meets up with a former colleague, also a physicist, that they piece together the puzzle of the final theory.

Final Theory is certainly a thrilling adventure in the same way that the Indiana Jones and Ben Gates (National Treasure) movies are since they all follow the same basic plot. Indeed, some scenes in the book seem lifted directly from one or more of these movies. Instead of looking for the Ark of the Covenant or a secret hidden treasure of gold, though, David is seeking a series of equations. But don't try to dig too deeply here or ask the "Why didn't he just do such and such?" type of questions (and there are dozens of these) lest be disappointed with the obvious answers. With this kind of novel it's best simply to sit back and enjoy the ride.

For those who insist on reading more into Final Theory, however, one of the more entertaining exercises is to make note of people (or objects) that are introduced into the story but who (or which) have little apparent connection to the plot. At some point in the future, that person (or object) will get David and his cohorts out of a life-threatening jam, which, it must be said, happens with alarming regularity. So whether it's a snake handler or a Zippo lighter or the many, many other unexpected people and things that keep popping up along the way, they all come into play eventually.

Final Theory is a fine choice for anyone looking for light, escapist entertainment that doesn't tax (in a supremely ironic way) the intellect too greatly. Otherwise, it's rather disappointing.

Special thanks to Touchstone / Simon & Schuster for providing an ARC of Final Theory for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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