Non-Fiction Book Review: True Raiders by Brad Ricca

Non-Fiction Book Review

True Raiders 
Brad Ricca
Publication Date: Sept. 21 2021
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Genres: Non-Fiction

As much as I'm a huge fan of Indian Jones, enjoying his adventures has always required a certain willing suspension of disbelief, especially around the biblical MacGuffins. So, as intrigued as I was by Brad Ricca's exploration of True Raiders, I entered into it with some trepidation, worried it might get bogged down by biblical 'truths' that are just as fanciful to me as anything from Norse, Greek, or Aztec mythology.

I needn't have worried. While the men of that early expedition are men of faith, their focus seems to have been more on history than mythology. Their search for the Ark has nothing to do with magical powers or divine miracles - instead, it's about solving centuries-old puzzles and following the clues to the hiding place of an historical treasure. That's an adventure I could buy into, and I quickly found myself fascinated by the adventure.

There's a lot to the story of Monty Parker and team that will be familiar to fans of adventure fiction, whether your taste runs more to Amelia Peabody, Nina Wilde, Sam & Remi Fargo, Jack Howard, Robert Langdon, or Indiana Jones. There's the fateful stumbling upon hidden passages, the deciphering of hidden codes and cryptic directions, the negotiation with political and religious leaders, the false leads and dead ends, the specter of those who wish to shut everything down, and the accidental discovery of unexpected histories and secrets. There's even a twist on 'savior' aspect of those stories, only here it's more about being respectful to and appreciative of those whose lands the adventurers trespass.

Of course, if you're a fan of real-life archaeological adventures and treasure hunts, bitter disappointment will be just as familiar. Fictional heroes always find their MacGuffin, even if they must lose it or destroy it to save the world, but real life doesn't follow a script. What's interesting about True Raiders is that we enter into it knowing that the Ark won't be found, but we're still just invested in the adventure, still just as prepared to be thrilled by small triumphs and minor discoveries, even if they won't ultimately lead to the Ark.

There's a lot of what I'll call downtime to the story, a lot of conversations and ordinary travels that are more about character building and historical color than adventure, but that's okay. It served to humanize the men (and a few notable women) behind the search, and to place their efforts within the political and social context of the times. It's sometimes easy to forget how much the world has changed over the last hundred years, how much borders have shifted and cultures transformed, so even as I chafed to get back to the dig, and even as I questioned what relevance certain tangents had to the story I appreciated the framing because even the most isolated digs don't take place in a vacuum.

If you're interested in world history and have an appreciation for real archaeology - the kind that's dirty and disappointing, as much about ideas as tangible artifacts - then True Raiders is a fascinating read.

Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ 1/2

My sincere thanks to the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.