I received this novel for free directly from the author Richard Brockwell, in exchange for an honest review.
Near the world-famous Mayan site of Chichen Itza, a similarly-ancient hidden temple is accidentally located by an American team by one Dr. Helen Shireberg. Hieroglyphics at the site suggest it may be the gateway to Xibalba, the legendary Mayan underworld.
Unfortunately, a valuable gold figurine and a solid tablet slate found by the team inside the site are stolen, and two Americans working at the site are subsequently murdered. The FBI decide to send in their best men to get to the bottom of the mystery and locate the missing items, as well as find out who murdered the American citizens.
Enter Jason Mallock, an FBI agent who regularly defies authority. He also happens to be a crack-shot with a gun, which may be due to the fact he can see even in the pitch dark. Jason is also an archaeologist in his former life, joining the FBI to specialise in locating stolen ancient artefacts.
On the side-lines, we learn that a sinister man called Dr. Tony Barrette is hoping to unlock the gateway to Xibalba, and gain all its secrets for his own nefarious intentions. Upon discovering the titular forbidden script inside the stone slate, he orders his goons to kidnap Helen in order to utilise her expertise in all things Mayan, leading Jason and his partner Danny into a deadly race against time to save Helen and discover the secret.
The plot itself is good on the surface. I have always enjoyed tales which evoke images in my head of the early Tomb Raider games or classic H. Rider Haggard novels of exploration. Therefore I experienced a genuine thrill when Helen leads her gold-crazy captors into the site and they explore the burial chambers located deep inside the ancient site.
There is also an amusing benefit to Jason’s compulsion to smoke cigarettes in inappropriate locations, as it actually drives a part of the plot forward. I won’t spoil any further for any new readers of the novel. The supernatural aspects of the story are interesting, as they do tie in to the beliefs of the Mayans regarding what happens to the souls of deceased persons, with one scene featuring Jason and Danny being very eerie indeed.
There are some negatives. While the theme of the story was interesting enough at times, the baffling grammar sometimes proved a strong distraction from the plot. I noted a number of confusing grammar choices: mixing past and present tenses in the same sentence; use of very short sentences where commas were more appropriate; garbled sentences which made little sense; confusing “your” with you’re” etc.
Another major gripe for me was the main character, Jason Mallock. Although it seems that the author wants to build him up to be some sort of charming rogue, Jason unfortunately comes across as a stereotypical misogynist. On a number of occasions, Jason shows that he has little respect for women, and because of this I mostly detested his character.
Overall I feel the novel was rushed, and that the author should have spent a lot more time refining the language/grammar to make for a more satisfying read. You also never really get behind Jason’s character, and his habits and opinions grate after a while; a shame. Dr Barrette however is a convincing and chilling “bad-guy” and has some good moments as to be expected with the genre.
I appreciate that getting your own novel out there into the book market must be a thrill for authors, and I commend anyone who endeavours to take on the task of writing one. In the digital age that is even easier as printing costs - and therefore publishers also - can be eliminated with the eBook. I am no literary expert, but I would strongly stress that before embarking on writing and self-publishing, a writer must also ensure the novel is properly proof-read.
A publisher would likely employ a couple of people for this purpose, but the self-publishing author has to do this task themselves, or at least ask some peers/friends/family. In self-publishing, the author is at the mercy of his/her readers/reviewers if they haven’t had it proof-read independently.
Rating: 2/5 stars