|On the Winter Solstice, December 21, 2012, the Maya believe that an era that has lasted more than five millennia will come to an end. Although in reality this "apocalypse" theory is under some modification, Elizabeth Lowell has selected this theme for her latest novel.
Dr, Lina Taylor descends from one of the royal families of the Maya. She is the youngest heir apparent of the Reyes Balam family which owns massive amounts of land in the Yucatan. This land has some of the oldest and best preserved ruins of the Maya. Her father, Philip Taylor, in a prenuptial agreement with her mother, forfeited his rights to inherit in exchange for the rights to explore the digs in his capacity as an archeologist. Although discredited in the academic world, his insanity fuels his passion for the ancient Maya diety Kawa'il.
Lina's mother Cecilia is the owner of a high end export shop dealing in the art of her people's culture. Her remaining family consists of her uncle Carlos who augments the family's vast fortune with a nationwide cement company. The remaining member is her very aged grandmother who resides in the family estate in the Yucatan. Her birthday is four days away,,,December 21 and Lina has to be present for the occasion.
Lina teaches at Houston's Museum of the Maya and in that capacity she has met and had coffee with Hunter Johnson, who is taking one of her adult classes. His attendance is sporadic and related to his work absences as a "security expert" for US companies and nationals in Mexico. Prior to this he worked in US Emigration with his best friend Jase.
Hunter returns from a job well done in Mexico to find that Jase is about to be fired from ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) as a scapegoat for his boss. DEA had turned up artifacts of the Maya in a cocaine bust at a border crossing. They were to be repatriated in a good will ceremony when suddenly they are missing, so Jase has been given three days to find them or else. Since they were within Lina's field of expertise, Hunter approaches her with pictures of the artifacts to help Jase. Without provenances she is very unwilling to discuss them, but she is aware that her mother has also heard rumors of unusual artifacts floating around.
These are extraordinary for their unusualness and their possible connection to the God Kawa'il, one whose existence was debatable among the Maya. She believes them to be stolen, and Hunter is looking for clues as to where they could have come from, hoping to work that angle to find them. She is afraid that they came from her family's estate in the Yucatan.
Events accelerate and Jase and Hunter become aware that there have been cult killings in Houston possibly linked to the Maya. When Jase, Hunter and Lina are attacked in a parking garage by Maya, they become painfully aware that she was the target and wanted by a chieftain known as EL Maya. Hunter knows he needs to get Lina out of town; so they head south to her family's estate for her grandmother's birthday.
There are many twists to this complex plot which showcases one of the Maya cult's approach to "The Turning of the Wheel," predicted to occur on December 21, 2012.
Elizabeth Lowell is an acknowledged artist in building her characters with credible dialogue, creating and maintaining emotional and plot tensions, and steamy romance - all within a selected unusual background where the reader learns about art, silk, geology, gems, or Maya culture.
There will probably be a correlation in a reader's appreciation of this new novel with their interest in learning about the Maya and their artifacts, but this reviewer was impressed and loved it.