$24.99 hardcover, $14.99 paperback, $2.99 e-book
A counterfeiter finds himself embroiled in a centuries-old mystery.
Stumpp’s debut novel opens by introducing readers to young counterfeiter Damian Lancaster, an orphan working on the fringes of the San Francisco underworld. When he takes a job providing counterfeit money to a group of South Korean criminals, his greed gets the better of him. He fails to do his due diligence in researching the culprits; they turn on him; kidnap him; and they’re poised to kill him. Then he’s rescued by the least likely person imaginable: A young woman named Nathalie Jevali, who’s been starring in his dreams for his whole life, just as he’s been popping up in hers. They immediately start talking about their dreams, yet when they part ways, life seems to go back to normal for both of them. But very unusual forces are working in the background, including the machinations of a Korean gang lord and an enigmatic alchemist named Albert. The alchemist seems to believe Damian is a living key to a quest extending back centuries and revolving around the famed Lapis philosophorum, the Philosopher’s Stone. But the violence of Damian’s shady milieu seems ready to crush him before he can make sense of any of these elements. The author very intentionally pitches his series opener as a combination of the pseudo-historical skulduggery of The Da Vinci Code and the crime-world grit of an Elmore Leonard novel. Stumpp’s prose is sometimes overwritten, but Damian himself is a compelling, Hollywood-ready hero who carries the bulk of the book’s action with ease. He’s an intelligent young brooder, a skilled and unrepentant master criminal, and a philosopher on the art of counterfeiting (“People would believe in a lie if it showed them what they expected to see and it was Damian’s job to make lies ring true”). Readers will find it consistently intriguing to watch him navigate both the dangers of his own profession and the weird alternate reality described by the alchemist.
An imaginative crime tale with heavy supernatural overtones.