Sam and Remi Fargo are the celebrated treasure-hunting husband and wife team whose reputation for first-rate discovery is second to none. In Mexico, they provide aid in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake. There, they stumble upon a skeleton, long buried in rubble, of a man clutching an ancient sealed clay pot. With the help of a college professor whose specialty is the ancient Mayan civilization, they break the seal to discover an intact Mayan codex, a book detailing the Mayan culture in greater detail than any previously studied. This rare find will thrust the Fargos into an adventure that Clive Cussler (collaborating with Thomas Perry) writes with his renowned panache.
THE MAYAN SECRETS takes Sam and Remi from Mexico to Guatemala, back to their Oceanside home in California, and to a remote mountainside village in Guatemala. Throughout their travels, they rely on the research and advice of Selma Wondrash, a trusted employee and friend. She arranges for all travel plans, contacts knowledgeable colleagues for aid, and cares for the family dog.
True to his style, Cussler begins THE MAYAN SECRETS with a short background chapter, set in Guatemala in 1537. There, late into each night, Dominican Friar Bartolome de Las Casas writes on parchment, by candlelight, a documentation of the Mayan culture. He hopes that his copy of an ancient handwritten book of pictures and symbols will explain to future generations the history of his Mayan converts. Spanish soldiers storm the mission during the night, searching for pagan books from the devil. de Las Casas leaves the mission and walks to the place where the Mayan Indians are camped, informing them of the threat to destroy their books. A man named Tepu accompanies the friar back to the mission, grabs up the book from the priest’s table, stuffs it inside a water pot, and leaves with it. de Las Casas gives him three gold pieces, blesses the man and sends him out, along with the water pot for safekeeping.
"Archaeology, history of an entire civilization, modern underworld activity and murder make up the entanglement of an intricate plot. The 40th year of Clive Cussler writing adventure novels looks to be a rousing success."
The Fargos appear to have unlimited financial resources when they decide to delve further into the secret Mayan writings they have unearthed. They contact Dr. David Caine at the University of California at San Diego, not far from their newly remodeled La Jolla home. Dr. Caine examines the Mayan pot, offers to have it carbon-dated for authenticity, and helps them unseal the container. He identifies the book as Mayan codex and traces it back to the Spanish conquest during the 1500s and into 1690. Reportedly there are only four, now five, of the codices left, unburned.
The next day, the Fargos receive visitors in a long black limo, a woman accompanied by three dark-suited men. Sarah Allersby is the attractive, expensively dressed blonde young woman with a heavy British accent. Information has leaked from locals in Mexico that the Fargos have found a Mayan codex. Sarah states that her sources reveal the existence of the fifth codex, and she is determined to own it. The Fargos reluctantly allow her to see the book, for which she offers them five million dollars. Sam tells her that it will eventually go back to Mexico, to be placed as a museum exhibit there. From this encounter, the adventure begins.
The Fargos identify a spot in the Guatemalan jungle, a cenote, or sacred pool in the bedrock that could have given the ancient Mayans a source for water and agriculture. Unfortunately, the possible city site is near a vast landholding called the Estancia Guerrero, owned by Sarah Allersby. The socialite most likely will not be at her home there when the Fargos arrive.
Cussler and Perry keep the adventure rolling forward as the Fargos enter foreign and unwelcome territory. They dive deep into the underground pool, retrieving treasures from the undisturbed limestone cavern. Above ground, they are under attack by rifle and heavy-ammo-toting men, bent on killing them. The Estancia houses much more than a wealthy celebrity-hungry mistress.
Archaeology, history of an entire civilization, modern underworld activity and murder make up the entanglement of an intricate plot. The 40th year of Clive Cussler writing adventure novels looks to be a rousing success.
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on September 27, 2013