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Literature / The Radix

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The Radix is a 2010 mystery novel by Brett King. The eponymous Radix is an ancient plant that holds miraculous healing powers and may even be able to grant immortality. It belonged to Jesus Christ, later it was sought by Vatican, Knights Hospitaller and the Borgia family. In the sixteenth century it disappeared.

Now it has been found again, thanks to a genius (though insane) cryptographist Edgar Wurm, who found clues by decrypting the Voynich manuscript. Adventurer Paleopathologist John Brynstone retrieves the relic, and the chase for it starts again, including the Knights of Malta, modern Borgias, the US government and Taft-Ryder Pharmaceuticals.However, the Radix itself is just a half of the miracle: to manifest its true power one needs the "Scintilla", the recipe for the elixir. It is long lost too, and the last person to know its whereabouts was Carl Gustav Jung, whose castle still keeps clues, if one knows how to find them.

The book features a lot of action, chasing and shooting as well as elaborate lectures in history, mythology and cryptography.

Not to be confused with the videogame Radix: Beyond The Void.

The novel contains examples of:

  • Abandoned Area: An abandoned slaughterhouse where Borgias take abducted Wurm for interrogation. Later Brynstone confronts Metzger on an empty construction site... Which is not actually abandoned, but the showdown happened on the Christmas Night, so everybody was on holiday. Apparently, including any guards the site had.
  • Adventurer Archaeologist: Brynstone. Morre accurately, he is an Adventurer paleopathologist.
  • Agent Scully: Gabriel Bitonti is an interesting example. He is a Vatican's investigator whose job is to (dis)prove any alleged miracles. So this is rather his job than nature: "I have examined countless 'miracles' and found them wanting. I go into each investigation as a pessimist and pray I will emerge an optimist. I seldom authenticate miracles".
  • Ambiguous Ending: Wurm's dead body disappears from the tomb, leaving large footprints that could belong to Santo Borgia... Or Wurm himself.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: Knights of Malta, hunting for Radix for centuries and infiltrating governments.
  • Arab Oil Sheikh: Prince Zaki bin Abdelaziz, Saudian ambassador to the United States, owner of a collection of mummies one of which contains the Radix.
  • As You Know: Used numerous times for exposition.
  • Bait the Dog: Knight invites Andy the bum for a meal. Poor, poor Andy. See Kick the Dog.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Carl Gustav Jung was a leader of a cult that searched for the Radix.
  • Bookcase Passage: Instead of a petty bookcase Prince Zaki uses a terrarium full of scorpions.
  • Came Back Wrong: Discussed and averted. Cory fears that after Brynstone resurrected his daughter with the power of Radix this happens to her. Fortunately, it's the opposite: she has Came Back Strong.
  • Carrying the Antidote: Brynstone injects general Delgado with a poison and interrogates him promising to give him the antidote. He bluffs: "poison" was actually saline solution.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Adriana Borgia tortures Wurm. The scene becomes more creepy in hindsight, when we find out she was his daughter and knew it.
  • Constantly Curious: Cori Cassidy behaves like this letting Wurm give us lots of exposition.
  • Consummate Professional: Erich Metzger's life is his job. Which is killing people.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Deena Riverside and Dilon Armstrong, respectively CEO and owner of Taft-Ryder Pharmaceuticals, who hunt for Radix to develop new, groundbreaking medicine.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Metzger kills Santiago Rojas by feeding him to insects (see Poetic Serial Killer).
  • Curtain Camouflage: Metzger does this, and it works. Apparently, Santiago Rojas's bodyguard has Failed a Spot Check.
  • Damsel in Distress: Brynstone's wife and daughter, kidnapped by Metzger.
  • Dark Action Girl: Adriana Borgia, almost falling into The Baroness territory.
  • Death Trap: Secrets of Jung's castle are protected by a Drowning Pit.
  • Distant Prologue: The story is set in modern times, but the prologue takes place in 1502, featuring Cesare Borgia and Niccolo Machiavelli.
  • Due to the Dead: Edgar Wurm's Meaningful Funeral takes a whole chapter.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Metzger may be a cold-blooded hitman, but he would never shoot someone in the back.
  • Fingore: During the torture scene Adriana Borgia rips Wurm's fingernails.
  • Gambit Pileup: Everybody (including the Borgias, US intelligence agencies, Knights of Malta and Corrupt Corporate Executives) is searching for the Radix for different reasons, messing up each other's (and sometimes their own) plans badly.
  • Genius Bruiser: Edgar Wurm is cryptography genius, and a strong fighter. As he puts it, "It always surprises people when they get their ass kicked by a mathematician". Brynstone qualifies too.
  • Government Conspiracy: Knights of Malta have occupied several government positions, using them for all kinds of shady business, including the hunt for Radix.
  • Grail in the Garbage: Not really garbage, since Prince Zaki's collection of mummies is pretty expensive, but he has no idea that one of them contains the Radix.
  • Healing Factor: After being resurrected by the Radix, Brynstone's daughter gets this.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Cesare Borgia is depicted even more sinister than he was. Also applies to Borgia family in general, since they are still active as villains.
  • Hollywood Encryption: Coded messages play a significant part in the story, depicted verbosely, but not very realistically.
  • Hostage for MacGuffin: Metzger does this to Brynstone's wife and daughter.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Hunting for Wurm, Adriana Borjia interrogates Cori. After Cori says "I didn't see him", Adrianna smiles and says: "I never said the patient was a man"
  • Infodump: The author is too eager to show his work, sometimes slowing the story down to a halt to tell the readers something about history, cryptography, religious studies or psychology.
  • Informed Ability: Wurm is supposed to be a cryptography genius, having cracked the code of the Voynich manuscript. However, he can't decrypt a trivial Scytale cipher.
  • Kinda Busy Here: During a dangerous car chase, Brynstone gets a call from wife who wants to tell him their daughter said her first word.
  • Like a Son to Me: Delgado treats Brynstone like this. See also Manipulative Bastard.
  • Littlest Cancer Patient: Subverted. Andrea Starr, a pretty 4 year old girl with spastic cerebral palsy, is mentioned in the beginning. Since the focus of the story is a search for Panacea, you could expect her to play some role in it. However, she's never mentioned again.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Played with. The fact that Edgar Wurm is Adriana Borgia's father comes as a surprise for the reader, but both characters have known it from the beginning.
  • MacGuffin: Dismantled MacGuffin kind. The Radix is a magical plant that belonged to Jesus Christ and is supposed to work as a Panacea. However, to use it properly you also need the Scintilla a recipe to cook it properly.
  • MacGuffin Title: The Radix.
  • Mad Artist: The Knight paints scenes of death of the Christian martyrs using unwilling models. "Pain was beautiful. It inspired him."
  • Mad Scientist: Edgar Wurm, a cryptoanalysist who managed to decode the Voynich manuscript, but in the process went mad and became obsessed with the Radix.
  • Manipulative Bastard: General Delgado is a competent officer and a father substitute for Brynstone. He's also a Knight of Malta manipulating Brynstone, the government and Catolic Church to get the Radix and trade it for the place of the order's grand master. And, by the way, it was him who killed Brynstone's father.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: General Delgado collects art and loves good wine.
  • Master of Disguise: Metzger is constantly changing his appearance.
  • Mistaken for Murderer: After Cori runs from the asylum hit by Borgias, she hears from radio that she is the suspected murderer.
  • MockGuffin: A fake Radix made by Wurm.
  • Mole in Charge: Delgado. Later we find out that he's not the only Knight of Malta in the government.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Erich Metzger started his career as a hitman by killing his own mother.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Erich Metzger's surname means "Butcher".
  • Obfuscating Insanity: Cori's backstory. She was put into the asylum as a part of an experiment, to see if doctors can tell a sane person from a mad. She also fakes insanity when she first meets Adriana Borgia, to pose as a harmless lunatic.
  • Panacea: Radix. It may also be an Immortality Inducer.
  • Poetic Serial Killer: Erich Metzger is known to kill his victims in a way related to the reason they are killed. Santiago Rojas once fed a woman to insects alive, so Metzger, hired by her children, does the same to him. Later he kills the Knight who collected art and tortured people to use as models for his own paintings. Metzger makes a bonfire of his collection and burns the Knight on it.
  • Poirot Speak: Metzger speaks English well, but loves to drop a "Ja". Nicolette Bettenncourt also delivers spades of lines in French, form "Qui" to "Putain!".
  • Posthumous Character: Ariel Cassidy, Cori's mother, plays a role in the story despite being dead.
  • Professional Killer: Erich Metzger.
  • Pyromaniac: Metzger's assistant called Franca. We only see her in one scene and know she's this from his lone remark.
  • Quirky Miniboss Squad: While Cesare Borgia was a real Big Bad, modern Borgias are no more than this.
  • Robbing the Dead: Downplayed. One of the asylum's guards is eating a cake he bought for two bucks since someone ordered it, but never picked it up. On the cake's frosting there are words: "Happy Ninety-first Birthday Uncle Fred". Guard's only comment is "His loss is my gain". Which makes said guard's deacpitation by Borgias a pathetic kind of Karmic Death.
  • Room Full of Crazy: Wurm's room in the asylum is a highly artistic kind of this, with replicas of Leonardo's paintings made of words.
  • Sadistic Choice: Brynstone encounters this during his showdown with Metzger. There are two people wanting the Radix he has. One is holding his daughter hostage, another has his wife.
  • Secret Underground Passage: There are two: one in Prince Zaki's residence, another in Carl Jung's castle.
  • Serial Killer: The Knight aka Delgado.
  • Solve the Soup Cans: Carl Jung's castle is full of ridiculously complex puzzles.
  • Start of Darkness: Mezger's backstory.
  • Take Our Word for It: For a long time the Radix is not described, only the awed faces and expressions of people looking on it.
  • The Dog Bites Back: The Knight's plans are foiled by a bum who saw him kidnapping Andy and told Bitonti.
  • The Mole: Brynstone's assistant Jordan Rayne is working for a Corrupt Corporate Executive from Taft-Ryder Pharmaceuticals.
  • The Watson: Cori Cassidy, to Edgar Wurm.
  • Treasure Chest Cavity: The Radix was hidden inside a mummy's chest. Bonus points: though it didn't resurrect the mummy, while being stored inside it, Radix made its dead tissues regenerate and bleed.
  • Villain Decay: In-story. Borgias used to be a strong political force and are still feared as such. Turns out that modern Borgias are little more than thugs for hire, working for Jordan Rayne.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: General Delgado.
  • Wicked Cultured: The Knight (aka General Delgado).
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Jordan Rayne is killed right after she hands (fake) Radix to Taft-Ryder Pharmaceutical's agent.
  • You Killed My Father: Double subverted. When Brynstone meets his father's murderer (Knight aka Delgado), the villain is about to burn alive on a fire lit by Metzger. He tells Brynstone what he did, trying to invoke this trope, provoking the hero to grant him a Mercy Kill. Brynstone doesn't kill him and leaves him to burn.