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Reviewed by Marta Tandori for Readers' Favorite
Fast Track to Glory by Tomasz Chrusciel is a tautly woven thriller somewhat reminiscent of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. Very few people have the privilege of being called upon to offer their professional expertise and when Nina Monte, Professor of History of Religions at the Department of Historical and Geographic Sciences and the Ancient World at the University of Padua, is called upon to do so by the Ministry, she feels hard-pressed to refuse. Nina is tasked with a top secret mission; verifying the authenticity of an ancient artifact currently located inside an old sunken galley lying at the bottom of Lake Garda. Sweetening the Ministry’s request is the promise of a large ‘gift’ to her university as well as a personal reward to her. Heading up the underwater recovery of the artifact is Lammert van der Venn, a wealthy collector and his crew. However, once Nina arrives at Lake Garda and before she even meets van der Venn, she runs into a distraught local hotelier, Alessandro Pini, who wants a meeting with the wealthy collector in order to question him regarding the death of his chef and beloved friend. Apparently, van der Venn had been the last man to see his chef alive. Before Nina or Alessandro fully understand what has happened, they are both on the run, leaving Italy behind as they head for India, relentlessly pursued by a ruthless madman who will stop at nothing until he gets what he wants.
Substitute Brown’s suave symbologist, Robert Langdon, with Chrusciel’s gutsy Nina Monte, and you’ve got a fully-formed protagonist who can kick ass with the best of her male counterparts. Like Langdon, Monte knows her stuff and isn’t the type to roll over in the face of adversity – and the adversity comes fast and furious. Monte’s brain is tempered nicely at the beginning by her vulnerability that arises from her seeming inability to find the perfect mate. Hotelier Alessandro Pini provides a good foil for the more dedicated and mature Monte. He is a little brash, a little immature, but in some respects has more self-confidence than the more reticent Nina - yet there’s no denying the chemistry between the two which is important as the story progresses. And what a story it is! There’s history, religion, plenty of action, and rich descriptions of foreign places which keep the readers’ imaginations fertile and their interests engaged throughout.
While Chrusciel’s prose is taut and succinct, there’s a bounty of adjectives which lend themselves to heightening an already top-notch story worthy of an Indiana Jones adventure. Exotic sights, sounds and smells are described in sufficient detail such that they’re almost tangible, transporting readers to a special place where each new page heightens both the expectation and the odyssey. Whether you buy into the artifact or the meaning behind it is immaterial. Fast Track to Glory is a fast track to the afterglow that is sure to come from such a great read!