P.T. Deutermann opens his 13th novel, The Last Man, at Masada, the site of the legenday battle between the Roman legions and Jewish rebels holed up in Herod's ancient palace near the Dead Sea. The Jewish sicarii, or daggermen, stood ready to kill the women and children--and themselves--to protect the deep secrets and treasures of their faith, a moment vividly depicted in the brilliantly told prologue.
Jump to modern-day Israel, where recently widowed Judith Ressner is a brilliant archeologist buried in her studies and where David Hall, a whistle-blowing nuclear physicist, comes to Masada, ostensibly to indulge his rich-boy interest in the history of the place. His recently disappeared girlfriend, however, had a theory about Masada and the people who sacrificed themselves there, and Hall is there to find out if she was right.
Judith is assigned to be David's minder, and the two become grudging friends with an unspoken attraction. Hall finds the mysterious site his girlfriend hinted at, then gets caught wandering the mountain at night and is shipped off the site. He plays rich tourist again for many days, but soon heads back to Masada, scuba gear in hand. He calls Judith and asks her to join him; she angrily agrees and together they dive into the cistern Hall has discovered, looking for hidden areas they can only guess at, only to be sealed in by a mysterious adversary. There are conspiracies within conspiracies in Deutermann's intricate plot, and the two protagonists have discovered the heart of them all. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor