3 out of 4 stars
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Private Eye Gina Miyoko, with a stature of just over 5 feet tall, may not be the most obvious choice for bodyguard despite her blackbelt in karate. Yet this happens to be the role into which she falls as the lead character in Maya Bohnhoff’s The Antiquities Hunter, when it becomes apparent that her best friend Rose is being shadowed by a mysterious person (or group) due to Rose’s role as an undercover agent for the National Park Service. Though unsure why she is being pursued, Rose and Gina determine it is likely to be related to the investigations Rose has been conducting into certain stolen artifacts from old-world archeological sites.
They confront one of Rose’s stalkers, a man named Cruz Veras, who claims at first to be a journalist from Mexico researching antiquities stolen from Mexican digs. They are skeptical, yet quickly determine that Rose is still being followed, and this time by a much more aggressive individual who appears to be attempting to intimidate Rose away from her investigations. Gina also discovers that Cruz is more than just a journalist – that in fact he was sent by the Mexican government to recover stolen artifacts, and appears to have a number of eclectic (yet oddly useful) skills. Despite his initial deception, which only heightens Gina’s distrust of him (exacerbated by memories of betrayal from other men in her past), Gina reluctantly teams up with Cruz to help keep Rose safe and get to the bottom of the situation. With each passing moment the stakes go up, and when Rose is sent to the hospital with life-threatening injuries, it is up to Gina and Cruz to solve the mystery.
The pair establishes contact with a private art and artifact collector named Revez and goes undercover with the goal of finding out whether he is involved in the clandestine dealings that threaten Rose’s life. As they uncover the truth layer by layer, they are placed in increasingly precarious situations and must rely on each other and their own quick thinking to prevent discovery and avoid capture or possibly even death.
Like a modern-day Indiana Jones story (with a female lead), this is an exciting and action-packed adventure that takes the reader from the streets of the San Francisco Bay Area to the dense and moist jungles of Mexico. Gina (nicknamed “Tink” by her friends, for reasons explained in the book) is a strong and smart character, who is not afraid to defy stereotypes and perceptions of her abilities, nor to put herself front and center in risky situations. She has an intriguing back-story; a failed engagement to a deranged ex-cop has resulted in a generalized distrust of men and a lack of desire for further romance. I had wished that the author would go deeper into this backstory, as it was so vital to the character development that Gina undergoes throughout this novel. However, it seems that this will be a recurring character in a series, so perhaps the author is saving the larger details of Gina’s past for later books. Despite the too-brief glance at her history, Gina was nonetheless a vibrant and interesting lead.
This story moved quickly from one plot point to the next, and each chapter was packed with excitement and action. The dialogue was clever and snappy, which would have worked well in a film, but at times came off a bit silly in text form. Certain words seemed out of place – for example, Gina referred to her abdomen as her “tummy” at one point which seemed oddly immature given her general desire to be taken seriously. There were a couple of other instances where her witty response to something said by Cruz came off as a bit ridiculous. The rest of the writing itself was clean and thoroughly edited; I only found one very minor typographical error in the entire book.
Because I personally would have preferred a bit more depth, and a chance to get to know each of the side characters (like Rose and Cruz) a bit better, I am rating this book 3 out of 4 stars. Other readers who enjoy a quick and to-the-point adventure may feel differently. The overall content is generally mild, and even the violent scenes are handled tastefully. There are some references to Russian Orthodox and Japanese cultures (Gina’s parents come from these backgrounds), which I found amusing, though not specifically crucial to the plotline. Overall, this is a fun and relatively light read, and would translate quite well into screenplay format. I look forward to seeing other books featuring these characters.
The Antiquities Hunter
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