The Secret on Ararat: Chapter 1: PUPPIES!!!
Bob Phillips sticks close to the format Greg Parshall established in Babylon Rising: Michael Murphy’s story, interspersed with occasional chapters about the origins of the Biblical artifact in question. In Babylon Rising, we saw the origin of the bronze serpent (sorta). In The Secret on Ararat, we learn about the construction of Noah’s Ark. (And catch up with Jesus, too, not that that’s relevant in any way.)
Also, Babylon Rising opened with Michael Murphy facing one of the Methuselah’s “death traps,” wherein the mysterious old man gives Murphy some sort of challenge, at the end of which Murphy gets a little Biblical toy prize.
As you may remember, Babylon Rising began with Murphy falling through the roof of a deserted warehouse, then doing battle with a lion so he could retrieve a piece of parchment around the lion’s neck.
The Secret on Ararat opens with Murphy being trapped in a cave filling with water. He has to simultaneously rescue himself, and rescue two puppies Methuselah has stashed down there.
GERMAN SHEPHERD PUPPIES!!!!!
So, we see that Methuselah likes to use animals in his challenges. Other than that, things are different. In Babylon, Methuselah tossed a rock with a paper wrapped around it through Murphy’s office window. I guess he got lazier in Secret, because this time, he just uses Fed Ex.
I am serious. He FED EXES MURPHY THE CLUE.
And it gets weirder, because Murphy is directed to a (fictional) cave in the Great Smoky Mountains. Once again, he falls through a trapdoor (he really needs to learn to keep an eye out for those), and ends up in a cavern with the puppies. Then the cavern fills with water.
I just…I dunno. Look, Methuselah’s trap kinda made sense in the first book. He is rich and powerful, and managed to find some people who could scout out an abandoned warehouse, make a trapdoor on the roof, put a giant net below it, AND find a lion with which Murphy could do battle. Methuselah at all points maintained a vast amount of control over the entire situation. After all, it has been established that Meth wants Murphy to succeed, and so it is in Meth’s interest to make the traps fair and escapable, perhaps even with contingencies at the ready if things start to go south. (For example, given the awesomeness of Meth’s staff, I’m sure a sniper with a dart gun could have been hiding, ready to take out the lion if Murphy proved unequal to the task.)
But how can Meth maintain any control over a cave? This is in the Great Smoky Mountains, in an area frequented by hikers and cavers, and Meth has found a cave where he can set up shop, make a trapdoor, and put some puppies in a cavern that he can then FILL WITH WATER AT WILL.
Um…what if Murphy bonks his head on something, Meth? What if he drowns? Did you think this through AT ALL???
To his credit, Murphy places a very high priority on getting the puppies out safely, and I am frankly astonished that the puppies survive, what with the water nearly drowning Murphy, culminating in the three of them rinsing through a fissure in the wall into a much drier room (HOW DID METHUSELAH SET THIS SHIT UP???), and then Murphy finds a piece of wood on top of pillar of rock.
Murph is suspicious that this is “a worthless piece of flotsam,” though I don’t know why he would think this, seeing as how every single other thing Meth has ever given him has been old and priceless and the last one led him to a GOLDEN HEAD.
Man, and I had so much respect for Methuselah up until now, but he just seems to be off his game now…