Mayan Mendacity by L.J.M. Owen

Having really enjoyed the first book in the Dr Pimms, Intermillennial Sleuth series, Olmec Obiturary, I was looking forward to seeing where the second instalment, Mayan Mendacity took the reader. I was not disappointed.

In this book, Dr Elizabeth Pimms, now a librarian, is once more asked to help catalogue bones from an ancient site – this time, from the Mayan civilisation. As her fiancé was present at the dig, the invitation to be involved holds a special place in Elizabeth’s heart, a heart that’s about to be tested in all manner of ways as her emotions, her beloved family, and so much more are soon threatened.

Segueing between the present and Elizabeth’s (sabotaged) attempts to find the answers the head of the research team requests and the Mayan period, the novel is fast-paced and filled with fascinating facts – about the Mayans as well as the steps undertaken to record and discover the secrets the bones contain.

The more answers Elizabeth discovers, it seems the more questions she needs to ask – and not only about her professional life, but her increasingly complicated personal one as well.

What I really enjoy about these books is the light touch of the writer. Despite dealing with some heavy themes, the novel is not weighed down by them, but cruises along at a good pace, keeping you turning the pages. Exposition is well-balanced with more descriptive prose and character and plot building. There is, however, one story-line exception (which was frankly, a weakly executed and featured two characters that were more caricatures than fleshed out – but I can forgive it because the rest is very well done). Mostly, the storyline is tight and the people populating the story utterly endearing. I particularly like the Pimms family. In this book, Owen has fleshed them out even more, and it’s hard not to envy Elizabeth such a supportive and madcap family, with such rich and complicated cultural roots. Any chapter involving them was always a pleasure and their meals were the stuff of foodie dreams. It’s not surprising then that at the back of the book are pages of recipes – all of which sound both delicious and very complicated!

This is proving to be a delightful series, and I am very much looking forward to stepping out with Dr Pimms on her next very cold case.



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Book Review: Personal by Lee Child

Number 19 iPersonal (Jack Reacher, #19)n the Jack Reacher canon, Personal opens with our vertically blessed loner, the ex military policeman, responding to an ad left in an army newspaper and which only he knows is a call for help from his former boss. Tasked with hunting down a sniper who authorities believe is going to attempt to assassinate world leaders at forthcoming summit, Reacher is back on the job. Having already tried to eliminate the French President, there are only a handful of assassins around the world gifted enough to have tried and failed – and one of them is an ex US soldier Reacher once arrested and who has a serious beef with the former army cop, hence making this mission very personal.

The clock is ticking…

With an attractive female side-kick thrust upon him (this is a Reacher novel after all), Reacher is sent to Paris then London to try and track down and put a stop to the assassin and what could be a world-changing, catastrophic event (killing a series of leaders). With limited information and aid from sources whose motives are often uncertain, Reacher finds himself embroiled in a turf war with some seriously tough and ruthless guys – one of whom is so big, he’s able to kick sand in Reacher’s face if he so chooses.

Yet, the closer Reacher gets to discovering the sniper’s whereabouts, the more danger in which he places himself and his young assistant. In typical fashion, those who employed him in the first place want solutions, not problems, so our protagonist is on his own.

There’s no doubt that Child writes a page-turner but, if you are a regular fan of the series, then there is a great deal of repetition to wade through. But it’s not only in matters concerning Reacher and which make him tougher than and different from your average Joe – the fact the only baggage he carries is a toothbrush and his eschewing of a diverse wardrobe. In this novel, some of the dialogue is repeated, to the point, it felt like the book needed another quick edit. Also, some of the plot points jarred a little. Having said that, when the tension starts to build and the “bad guys” emerge from the shadows to converge on their target, it’s hard to put the book down.

So, while this is not Lee at his best, it’s far from his worst and the end, though you might see it coming, is still gratifying. A great holiday or aeroplane read and you cannot ask for much more than that.

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