Tag Archives: magical realism

Mark of the Spider – Supernatural Thriller

The Mark of the Spider
by David L. Haase
© 2018

Mark of the Spider by David L. HaaseThe Mark of the Spider is an installment in David L. Haase’s Black Orchid Chronicles, a supernatural-thriller series. On a working trip to the Southeast Asian island of Borneo, photographer Sebastian Arnett searches for rare orchids to photograph. At the invitation of an Australian attaché on a mission to locate mineral deposits, Arnett joins his group’s forays into the interior. When an old, indigenous woman offers him a shot at the ever-elusive black orchid, Arnett and his mates take her up on it. But they get, and lose, more than they bargained for.

Arnett gets shot with a dart when he and his three cohorts stop at the old woman’s village. He wakes up with pain in his face and finds he has been tattooed and now apparently possesses an evil spirit and an unusual power. Arnett also finds his friends’ heads hanging from a pole. What follows—Arnett attempts to lose himself and the spirit, while the government wants him as a secret weapon. Various efforts to help come from Mike Owens, a Marine ordered by the military to keep tabs on Arnett. A Native American medicine man, Amanda Cox Campion (Arnett’s new love interest) and Tom (or T, to his friends), a son of Campion’s ex-husband, are also in the mix.

The Good and Not-so-Good

Overall, The Mark of the Spider marks a good beginning to this supernatural series. However, the pacing slowed at times, such as when Arnett found himself alone with the old woman after his friends had been killed. Part of that might have worked better as a flashback later, when Arnett attempted to get the tattoo altered. Occasionally, too much time was spent expostulating about Arnett’s attempts to stay off the grid such as when he broke into a house. Another instance of over-expostulation involves Arnett and T building a bunker in the last in a series of bolt-holes.

On the other hand, I would have liked Arnett to do a little sleuthing into southeast Asian spirit beliefs. That might have been woven into Arnett’s attempts to come to terms with what has happened to him.

On the whole, a fairly engaging read. I look forward to reading the second installment and learning the ongoing fate of Arnett, Campion and T.

El Dorado – A Golden Search

A Shadow Away
by Joan K. Lacy
© May 2018
Alazo Press

A Shadow Away - a search for El Dorado El Dorado

Searching for El Dorado in the Amazon jungle, Alex Cort and Andrew Seaton need all the help they can get in A Shadow Away by Joan K. Lacey. Cort, a private art theft investigator, and Seaton, a British archaeologist, search for the fabled city of gold based on an old map, a gem and a golden idol that’s gone missing. As Cort and Seaton slog through the jungle assisted by a local guide, they’re aided by Angel, a mysterious being from an alternate universe. Angel’s heightened senses and skills, some would say magic, keep the searchers a step ahead of Benjamin Guelf, an unscrupulous rival collector.

Although Angel uses her powers to get the group out of danger on occasion, she seems withdrawn and not really part of the group. The reader learns nothing about her antecedents or world. On more than one occasion, Angel implies that Cort and Seaton can attain some or most of her powers. When Cort asks her, she just proclaims that he’s not ready to know such things. Often, as Cort and the others traverse the jungle, Angel seems to walk along in another world, like a slippery wraith.

Literary Comparisons

A Shadow Away might be compared to the Indiana Jones universe. Lacy’s novel involves an archaeologist seeking a religious relic in an intimidating environment while evading unscrupulous competitors. In addition, similarities exist between Lacy’s Alex Cort series and Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series. Again, both involve archaeologists searching for artifacts and dealing with danger. But Lacy introduces a subtle dose of magic realism in the search for El Dorado, thus expanding the trope.

Recommendation

Overall, A Shadow Away is an engaging read that kept me interested. I would have preferred to learn a good deal more about Angel even if the information was kept away from Seaton and Cort. She refers to herself as a “witch” and is evasive when Cort asks about her world. She says he’s not ready to know even after Cort begins accepting her abilities, which seems condescending. At times, she seems insubstantial, like a hologram, even when she and Cort become attracted to each other.

Cort and Seaton with their group of indigenous guides hack and slog their way through the jungle undergrowth. Yet, on a few occasions, Guelf and Raul Facón, his nasty sidekick, just step out from behind a tree to confront them looking unscathed and fresh as if Guelf and Facón could just teleport into the area. At one point, the Amazon River, which is full of life-threatening creatures, sweeps Guelf away. Yet, in the final stages of the story, he appears well and hearty.

Still, I recommend A Shadow Away for those who like stories full of adventure, mystery and magical realism. I give this first Alex Cort novel 3.75 out of 5 stars; a solid read. I look forward to the next installment in the series.