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The Black Madonna

The Black Madonna.  By Davis Bunn.  Howard Books and Touchstone Books, 2010.  336 pages, paperback.  $14.99.

Author Davis Bunn is a self described “gentleman adventurer…equal parts writer, scholar, teacher and sportsman.”  His background is in international economics and finance.  Currently, he’s the Writer in Residence at Regent’s Park College, Oxford University.  Since 1990, he’s written numerous novels and earned three Christy Awards for excellence in Christian historical and suspense fiction.

The Black Madonna is the second in Bunn’s Storm Syrrell Adventures series.  These books follow art historian and antiquarian Storm Syrrell as she finds herself drawn into international intrigue.  The first book, Gold of Kings, which involves Syrrell’s search for her grandfather’s murderers, introduces the main characters, but one does not need to read it first in order to enjoy The Black Madonna.

As the story opens in The Black Madonna, Syrrell is struggling to keep her South Florida high-end antique shop open in the wake of a depressed economy.  She competes with other dealers to scrape up “prizes” from the Palm Beach upper crust devastated by Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme.  Just when she believes her luck has run out, she receives a mysterious phone call from an anonymous buyer setting her on a “price is no limit” quest for a mythical religious object.  The anonymous caller wires a large advance into her account and arranges a plane ticket to Europe.  Within hours, Syrrell finds herself jetting overseas and into a “storm” of intrigue, mystery and romance.

Bunn’s writing style flows well and keeps the action moving along.  The plot twists keep the reader on the edge of his seat until the very end.  Bunn also expertly weaves in details of archeology, international finance and Christianity into a very exciting story.

One of the best features of Bunn’s writing is his ability to keep the story “clean” without sacrificing adventure.  In today’s word of often questionable reading material, Bunn’s approach is a much welcome change from the standard fare.  While adults will most certainly enjoy The Black Madonna, it’s also a “safe” choice for young adult readers with its lack of obscenities, gratuitous violence and lasciviousness.  Other authors should take note: Bunn proves it’s possible to write entertaining adult fiction without resorting to R-rated levels to maintain readers’ interest.

Some of Bunn’s characters and scenes seem a bit forced and I believe on major plot element is left too far open – although I realize that’s incentive for the reader to purchase the next book in the series when it comes out.  Personally, I would have preferred him to wrap things up a bit neater.  However, these are both rather small points and don’t seriously detract from the overall entertainment value of The Black Madonna.

I thought The Black Madonna was a great adventure book and agree with United International Pictures Senior Vice President Hy Smith, who said, “Davis Bunn has created a thinking person’s Indian Jones.”  I’m looking forward to Bunn’s next Storm Syrrell Adventure, as well as his other upcoming works.



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