Reviewed by Marcus Hammond

Kitty Pilgrim’s second novel, The Stolen Chalice, has the potential to be an exciting mystery, but falls quite a bit short. The story begins with an art heist at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art that spins into an extravagant series of criminal acts that end with a biological terrorist attack. In the midst of the art heist the thieving terrorists also steal the Sardonyx Cup, an ancient Egyptian artifact, from a wealthy entrepreneur, Ted VerPlanck. In response to the theft VerPlanck gathers a group of specialists to track down the artifact. Each character quickly becomes entangled into the underlying plot to attack a political summit with a bio-weapon.

I had an incredibly hard time reading this novel. Initially, I was expecting a mystery, and while that is an aspect, the characters and their emotions towards the situation and each other take center stage. This drives the novel to feel more like romantic fiction that is moved forward by a series of action sequences. There are, however, no satisfyingly intimate moments to solidify its genre.

The large amount of characters that are introduced throughout the novel (at least six main characters and a slew of minor characters) distracts from the potential of the book. Pilgrim constructs a large group characters, all with special knowledge about the missing artifact and/or biological terrorism, but they are all more concerned with the emotional aspects of their relationships.

Due to the focus on each of the characters emotional concerns, the mystery/action aspects of the plot suffer greatly. Pilgrim’s focus on developing so many characters forces the resolution to many of the book’s puzzles to feel forced or too easily resolved. This becomes extremely evident within the last lines of the book when the search for the Sardonyx Cup finally links back into the terrorist attack plot line.

This could have been a more engaging and enjoyable novel if there were fewer characters to develop. Focusing on one or two of the heroes, instead of multiple people who only have a casual connection throughout the book would allow more attention to be paid to the more interesting action-based plot line. There is simply not enough development in either the romantic fiction or mystery realms of this book to be enjoyable.

Rating: ★½☆☆☆ 

After obtaining a Masters in Liberal Arts and Literature Marcus has dedicated most of his time to teaching English Composition for a community college in the Midwest. In his down time, he spends time avidly reading an eclectic selection of books and doing freelance writing whenever he gets the chance. He lives in Kansas with his wife.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Nancy Seltzer & Associates, Inc.. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.