Author: Carolyn Hart
This is another stand alone novel from the author of the Death on Demand mystery Series and the Ruth Bailey Ghost mysteries. I reviewed her prior novel "What the Cat Saw" (click here for review) and interviewed the author (click here.) This is written in the style of the old Gothic suspense novels like Mary Stewart's "Moonspiners" and "Airs Above the Ground", and reminded me of Agatha Christie's "They Came to Baghdad" - only portraying a modern woman.
Copyright: Dec 2013 (Berkley) 256 pgs
Series: Stand-alone Novel
Mystery Sub-genre: Gothic suspense
Main Characters: Sheila Ramsay, Egyptologist at NYC museum
Setting: 1982, New York but primarily Mexico City
Obtained Through: Publisher for an honest review
Sheila attends a conference at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. and sits in on a lecture by Jerry Elliot, visiting curator at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. After the lecture Sheila and Jerry strike up a conversation and spend the day together. That short time of fast friendship makes an impression on Sheila well after the conference is over and she returns to New York and her Egyptology department.
Some time passes and her museum needs to return an old manuscript they were studying to the family that lent it. Sheila puts her name in the hat to return the manuscript to the Ortega family in Mexico city with the hope of getting some sightseeing in and visiting Jerry Elliot again. Sheila is picked to make the trip to return the manuscript to the Ortega Family. As soon as the plane lands she is in somebody's cross-hairs with a note handed to her in the airport threatening death if she doesn't return to New York. Her first night at the Ortega's mansion she awakes in the night from a sharp cry...thus begins the danger she will face without knowing how she has been injected into a deadly hunt for ancient treasure.
Sheila is a level headed, smart gal who takes a step outside her comfort zone only to be thrown into a dangerous situation out of her control. She handles what is dealt her with reason and appropriate fear. Jerry Elliot proves to have a one-track mind on antiquities above Sheila's situation. He does provide key information but is not what Sheila remembered nor expected. In true gothic fashion, the man who captures Sheila's imagination, Tony Ortega, is an enigma through most of the novel. Other members of the Ortega family are involved, but Rita and Francesca, ten year old twin sisters of Tony are memorable.
The setting is divided between the Ortega's mansion in Mexico City and sights in Mexico. Sheila is just being a tourist when a suspenseful drama unfolds at Teotihuacan (City of the Gods), an archaeological site with famous Mesoamerican pyramids. Incorporating such distinctive sights helps to transport the readers into the exotic locale.
This is a shorter book of only 256 pages, which results in a fast paced story overall. Surprisingly there were still a few spots that seemed a bit slow. The plot is a slight stretch, but believable enough for an entertaining novel. There are plenty of suspects and information is slowly revealed, which keeps the reader in the dark along with Sheila. It has a good suspenseful killer reveal and climax that brings the story threads crashing to a finale. There is one little question left unanswered at the end, purposefully left hanging. The wrap-up provides a feel good ending despite the fall out.
If you miss the gothic suspense novels and yearn for a similar story, you will enjoy this exotic race amid Mexican ruins.
Rating: Good, not great - A fun read with fast pace for a light adventure.