ALL TIMELINES LEAD TO ROME
By Dale Cozort
So I’m at the Windy City Pulp & Paper show earlier this year having a conversation with crime novelist Terrence McCauley when a fellow walks up and hesitantly interrupts us. He introduces himself to Terrence and explains how they had both been finalist in a recent writing contest, with Terrence beating him out for the top prize. At which point I’m then introduced to writer Dale Cozort who asks if I review books. I said yes and he handed me a copy of “All Timelines Lead to Rome.” Believe me, we reviewers come by books in some truly interesting ways.
So here I am, months later, having worked my way through my To-Read-And-Review stack and there’s Cozort’s book. Okay, I think, let’s see what this guy has to offer. Answer, a whole lot, all of it good. Within the first two chapters, I was hooked. Cozort is a damn good writer with a gift for creating original characters that constantly surprised me by acting completely logical; a very rare occurrence in most of today’s fiction. His dialogue is wonderfully fresh and realistic.
The plot revolves around American scientists in our world having discovered several natural portals that open into another, alternate earth. On this other earth, the Roman Empire stagnated and Western European culture was never developed; thus indigenous races living in the Americas were allowed to evolve their own cultures far beyond anything we are familiar with today. Because of the modern, instantaneous communication environment in our world, keeping the existence of the portals a secret is impossible and therefore the government creates a special department, the Bureau of Timeline Integrity – BTI, to guard and monitor the portals to Timeline X.
When the headless body of young murdered woman is discovered possessing an ancient Roman scroll from Timeline X, Boston Detective Darla Smith is assigned to the case. She travels to Chicago headquarters of the BTI to team with BTI Archeologist Scott White. While investigating the murder, the two begin to suspect a wealthy computer outfit called Bergen Industries may have created their own portal and are using it to travel back and forth between worlds for some unfathomable scheme.
“All Timelines Lead to Rome,” is a deft mixture of science fiction and mystery thriller that moves at such an easy pace, it never bogs down. The reader is instantly invested in the characters and their motivations that propel the action and builds to a memorable finale that is superbly realized. This is one of those few books that, by the time I’d reached the last page, I was sorry to see it end. Dale Cozort has set up a really plausible setting with richly complex characters in a story told with thought provoking imagination; the hallmark of any good science fiction. Should he ever return to the world of BTI and Timeline X, I’ll be the first buy another ticket. You should too.