Thursday, October 29, 2015

Alphabet Soup Challenge: Lyn Hamilton - The Xibalba Murders

Lara McClintoch, her marriage ended and her antiques business sold, eagerly embarks on a trip to Mexico to help an old friend solve a mystery. On arrival, her friend puts off their meeting and then disappears. After Lara witnesses a brazen robbery of a valuable statue of the ancient Mayan civilization and stumbles on a corpse in a museum of antiquities, she becomes a police suspect. Afraid of the police and unsure whom to trust, Lara follows clues pointing to black marketeers and zealous revolutionaries. This dangerous trail takes her to remote archaeological ruins, lush jungles, and bustling streets filled with revelers. Lara engages in a thrilling battle of wits and courage to unmask a killer and stop a tomb-robber in the shadowy world of Xibalba, the Lords of Death.

Comment: This is my X pick for the alphabet challenge. I admit I only got it at the beginning of the year for this challenge alone. Getting books on purpose when they aren't things I normally would want to read on my own seems pointless and I'm thinking about not doing this again next year. But I'll think about it...
So this story present us Lara, an archeological artifacts expert who used to own a shop with her husband but they got a divorce and he wants half of something she worked very hard to have. Lara is traveling to Mexico to help an old friend solve a situation but when she gets there her friend is gone and Lara becomes a police suspect. Along with a set of characters that seem to have hidden agendas or simply hard to figure out personalities, can Lara put her knowledge to work in a place where the Lords of death, Xibalba were reverenced once upon a time?
Ok, so here's my biggest issue with this story, something that really got on my nerves and that somehow slowed down my enthusiasm after the first pages: the story is told, not showed. We know of things or are told information after things happen. For this contributes the fact the narrator is Lara, so our knowledge of things is reduced to what she knows and at the pace she learns things. However, Lara thinks a lot about things, sometimes reaches a conclusion by talking to some people but in reality we, the reader, don't actually see much, we just know because Lara tells it so and because she moves around.
I found this state of things to be annoying at some times because it's difficult to accept some situations if we only know about them and don't see it happen or don't see how it happens. And at the end of the book I wasn't that captivated by Lara too, she's practical which is good, we know she's going through a hard spot emotionally, but she and the other characters weren't as engaging and seductive enough, if I can say so, to make me want to care about what would happen.
I guess the writing style just isn't for me and for a first time, I'm not inclined to keep reading things by this author.
The plot is essentially a mystery and that part I admit seemed intriguing. A detail here, another there were key to make me keep reading. Then the story got to a point where my feelings got divided between interest and disbelief... Closer to the end of the story, Lara comes up with a reason for why things are happening and why people have been murdered. At this point the story starts to have a very adventurous development and Lara almost looks like a female Indiana Jones doing things almost impossible and out of a movie set for sure. I confess this was the most interesting part in the story, Lara's thoughts, the path she takes, the random steps that lead her to the right places... but at the same time it's hard to believe because it's just so unlikely I had a hard time not rolling my eyes at amazingly moves such as almost dying but discovering a underwater path that would help her, etc.
I understand the point, but it's a situation I can't juts say it's amazing or bad...
Lara is a good character, despite everything. I just don't think her voice is used to best advantage of the story. Some situations are better if we can have access to them. Knowing things only at the very end or by Lara's powers of deduction doesn't have the same impact and seems a little bit patronizing because she's supposed to be more clever than we are, somehow.
There are some parts of her personality I liked. She knows things but it's obvious she's not supposed to be superior to others or be cocky, it only seems the author made her look like it. The choices in life reveal someone as normal as anybody else and in some moments I empathized with her. Only at the every end she seemed to be luckier than the average person.
The secondary characters play their part, whether surprising reveals, hidden betrayals, power struggles and friendly presences.
In the end, there's a sort of HEA which I found rushed and unexplained and despite the goal in here not being the romance, if it's to be such a quick fix, why bother, even more considering the amount of installments that come after?
I don't know, but everything didn't sound too appealing to me, not enough to keep me reading but I admit to the interesting details and little things we learn. The fast pace of the adventurous last chapters up the grade a bit but it's still half way through in the ladder for me.
Grade: 6/10

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