With The Summoner, Layton Green introduces us to Dominic Grey, a Diplomatic Security special agent with a flair for unearthing dangerous religious cults. His story begins with the disappearance of a US diplomat during a Zimbabwe religious ceremony, but quickly gets darker, stranger, and more sinister with the secrets he uncovers.
Part mystery, adventure, and thriller, this is an exciting tale that grabs hold of the reader early on and refuses to let go. The physical descriptions of Zimbabwe are absolutely stunning, creating a unique setting that lends itself very well to the atmosphere of magic and mystery that Green has crafted. There are political, cultural, and religious elements to the story, all of which are so carefully blended that the glimpses of the supernatural are impossible to simply disregard. Early on, I knew the book could go either of two ways, with one leading to my DNF pile, and the other leading me here, to an enthusiastic review and recommendation.
Green's story is well-paced, with a generous amount of background information that never gets in the way of moving the story forward. Dominic Grey is an interesting protagonist, a little hard to warm up personally, but strong enough to entrust with carrying the rather ambitious plot. Fortunately, his partner/colleague, Professor Viktor Radek, provides more of a human element, allowing the reader to find an emotional attachment to the tale. It's not a pretty tale, and readers who are at all squeamish may find themselves tempted to skip certain passages, but it's a temptation that must be denied in order to fully appreciate the significance of Grey's work.
There were a few twists that I saw coming, and a few surprises that fell a little flat, but for the most part I was pleased with how things developed. Even when he truly surprised me, I never felt cheated or betrayed by the changes in direction. I was a bit concerned about how the story would end, especially since Grey's role in carrying the franchise erased any possibility of real danger, but the climax here really works.
As a self-contained story, the book works well enough to satisfy readers looking for something a bit different, but it certainly leaves a lot of potential for the books to follow. Given that it's the second book, The Egyptian, that originally caught my eye - I really only read this one because my OCD prevents me from jumping into the middle of a series - I was thoroughly relieved to find myself wanting more at the end.