Hounded. Haunted. Hunted. She is the most important person in the world. She is The Key.
In the ancient Turkish city of Ruin, American journalist Liv Adamsen lies in an isolation ward staring at walls as blank as her memory.
She knows she entered the monumental Citadel at the heart of Ruin but can remember only darkness. Something strange is stirring within her, whispering that she is ‘the key’. But the key to what?
For the Ghost, a mercenary operating in the Syrian Desert, Liv could unlock one of mankind’s most potent secrets. For the brotherhood in the Citadel – now cursed by a terrible plague – her return is the only way to ensure their survival. And for a powerful faction in Rome, she threatens the very future of the Catholic Church.
Hunted across continents and caught up in events that defy explanation, Liv turns to the only person she trusts – a charity worker named Gabriel Mann. Together their paths lead to a shocking discovery – one that will tear them apart and change the world forever…
Al-Hillah, Babil Province, Central Iraq
The desert warrior stared through the sand-scoured window, goggles hiding his eyes, his keffiyeh masking the rest of his face. Everything out there was bleached the colour of bone: the buildings, the rubble – even the people.
He watched a man shuffle along the far side of the street, his own keffiyeh swathed against the dust. There weren’t many passers-by in this part of town, not with the noon sun high in the white sky and the temperature way into the fifties. Even so, they needed to be quick.
From somewhere behind him in the depths of the building came a dull thud and a muffled groan. He watched for any indication the stranger may have heard, but he kept walking, sticking close to the sliver of shade provided by a wall pockmarked by automatic weapon fire and grenade blasts. He watched until the man had melted away in the heat-haze, then turned his attention back to the room.
The office was part of a garage on the outskirts of the city. It smelled of oil and sweat and cheap cigarettes. A framed photograph hung on one wall, its subject appearing to proudly survey the piles of greasy paperwork and engine parts that covered every surface. The room was just about big enough for a desk and a couple of chairs and small enough for the bulky air-conditioning unit to maintain a reasonable temperature. When it was working. Right now it wasn’t. The place was like an oven.
The city had been plagued for months by power cuts, one of the many prices they’d had to pay for liberation. People were already talking about Saddam’s regime like it was the good old days. Sure, people might have disappeared from time to time, but at least the lights stayed on. It amazed him how quickly they forgot. He forgot nothing. He’d been an outlaw in Saddam’s time and had remained one under the current occupation. His allegiance was to the land.
Another grunt of pain snapped him back to the present. He began emptying drawers, opening cupboards, hoping he might quickly find the stone he was looking for and vanish into the desert before the next patrol swung past. But the man clearly knew its value. There was no trace of it here.
He took the photograph off the wall. A thick black Saddam moustache spread across a face made featureless by pudgy prosperity; a white dishdasha strained against the man’s belly as his arms stretched around two shyly grinning young girls who had unfortunately inherited their father’s looks. The three of them were leaning against the white 4x4 now parked on the garage forecourt. He studied it now, heard the tick of the cooling engine, saw the shimmer of hot air above it, and a small but distinctive circle low down in the centre of the blackened glass of the windscreen. He smiled and walked towards it, the photo still in his hand.
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'Well written, expertly crafted story, engaging, and I couldn’t put it down until I was almost comatose. 5/5'
US Daily Review
'Extremely highly recommended.'
'Full of twists, turns and intelligent subplots The Key has more than enough shocks – one I never saw coming – to entertain and satisfy the most ardent of fans.'
'... believable and sympathetic characters in a framework of fantasy, suspension of disbelief, and continual plot twists and turns.'