The Anomaly by Michael Rutger

The Anomaly by Michael Rutger
Publisher: Zaffre Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Action/Adventure, Paranormal
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Not all secrets are meant to be found.
Nolan Moore is a rogue archaeologist hosting a documentary series derisively dismissed by the “real” experts, but beloved of conspiracy theorists.

Nolan sets out to retrace the steps of an explorer from 1909 who claimed to have discovered a mysterious cavern high up in the ancient rock of the Grand Canyon. And, for once, he may have actually found what he seeks. Then the trip takes a nasty turn, and the cave begins turning against them in mysterious ways.

Nolan’s story becomes one of survival against seemingly impossible odds. The only way out is to answer a series of intriguing questions: What is this strange cave? How has it remained hidden for so long? And what secret does it conceal that made its last visitors attempt to seal it forever?

Nolan Moore is part of a tv crew on their first big break from their own YouTube channel and trying to crack the cable network. As an amateur archaeologist and host of “The Anomaly Files” Nolan and his small crew travel the country unraveling conspiracies, investigating strange occurrences and always seeking the truth. For their first attempt at a broader audience, however, they’re going big, trying to find a secret and long hidden cavern in the Grand Canyon rumored to have ancient treasures deep within. What they discover is so much more wondrous and dangerous than they could have ever believed.

I admit I am a total sucker for cave adventure style stories and I also have a soft spot for “finding the treasure” or “discovering something new” type of adventures as well. This story had both of those – and having been twice now to the Grand Canyon myself I absolutely adore this awe-inspiring and magnificent setting so that just sold me more on the story. I found this story started out fairly slowly, which in my adventure/mystery stories I’m not always a fan of, but this time I really appreciated the time to get to know the small group of characters. I also enjoyed the author taking time to really lay out and explain how the tv show and their trip into the Grand Canyon came about. Explaining their actions and reasons helped me get a good grip of where the story was coming from and so when the exploration and adventure began in earnest I was emotionally on board with the group and ready for the fun to begin. Had the author jumped right into the action I might have struggled a little connecting better with the characters.

Like so many mystery/adventure stories I thought there were a number of excellent reveals and that wonderful sense of exploration. This part of the story was really well handled and in part I feel it helped propel the bulk of the story along. While not the usual fast pace of other adventure style stories I thought this was still really gripping and I was quite eagerly along the trip with the others. Toward the end of the story there were a few big twists (one in particular I hadn’t seen coming, though a few of the smaller shifts I had an inkling about) so I feel readers who enjoy their mysteries not straight forward or procedural should definitely feel this appeals to them.

I also was surprised by how light a touch the author made with the paranormal aspect of the story. Indeed, for much of the book (almost three quarters of it) there is virtually nothing paranormal at all, and even when that element does get woven into the story it’s not along the usual line of “monsters going bump in the night” which I had partly expected. I have read more than my fair share of “monsters eat everyone in the party” style of stories (and I love them – that was a deciding factor in me trying this new-to-me author) but it was with surprise and pleasure I discovered this is far more of a “cave adventure” and “uncovering hidden secrets” sort of story and not a monster trapped and killing everyone sort of paranormal adventure. I think readers expecting a “monsters” or strongly paranormal story might not be satisfied with this aspect of the story. I feel this book is far more suited to readers wanting a mystery and adventure story which has flavour of paranormal/other worldly plotline to it towards the end

Two of the lead men are not your traditional style protagonists or “hero” type of material, they are both excellent characters and I enjoyed them, but they are flawed and not shy about it. Also two of the other characters were recent additions to the group and so watching them interact and become meshed into the group with the other characters was interesting but meant the group didn’t start from the first page as a cohesive well oiled working group of people. This all made for excellent reading to my mind, but did slow the pace of the adventure itself somewhat. I found this slower start really paid off once the adventure began and the trip started falling apart – the action and plot wound higher but my emotional attachment to the group and characters was solid enough by then I really cared what happened to them and that was due in large part to the slower beginning where I as a reader could become more invested in the people rather than just along for the adventure.

Readers who enjoy action and archaeology based stories should really enjoy this book. I loved the sense of wonder the exploration gave the story (and it reminded me slightly of other Egypt-based type of treasure hunting stories that I’ve read) and the small tidbits of history and facts peppered in through the story really helped me feel that while clearly fiction there were truths and factual elements to the story, more than enough to have me Goggling and researching myself both during and after reading the story.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story and was pleased to find the author has a number of other stories under different names. I’ll eagerly be looking into these and I will absolutely enjoy re-reading this adventure again in the future. Recommended.

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