Friday, May 13, 2011

The Aztec Heresy

The Aztec Heresy by Paul Christopher is a book I wish I'd never laid eyes on. I believe in truth in advertising. I get pissed off when I'm mislead. I really hate it when I've wasted my time on a book that didn't live up to it's advertising. I often pick books based on what's written on the back. I expect that whatever is printed on the back cover is directly related to what is in the book. In the case of The Aztec Heresy, I was really mislead.

Here's what it read on the front cover under the title:
An ancient secret.
A lost city.
A treasure that could change history.

Here's the “blurb” from the back:

Archaeologist Finn Ryan stumbles upon a mystery dating back to the Spanish Inquisition – and a secret with catastrophic implication for the present.
In search of a Spanish galleon in the Caribbean, Finn Ryan and her partner, Lord Billy Pilgrim, find evidence of a lost Aztec Codex. The invaluable book, created by fifteenth-century explorer and accused heretic Hernan Cortez, is said to reveal the secret location of the lost City of Gold. Finn and Billy soon realize they are not alone in their quest.
Also on the trail is the head of a menacing religious cadre, who will kill to get the codex first, as well as a sociopathic billionaire, with his own sinister reasons for wanting to possess it. But while trying to find the codex – and stay alive – Finn and Billy come upon an even greater and more explosive secret. This mystery will take them from the jungles of the Yucatan to the Sonoran Desert, where the stakes are life and death and the game is just beginning.

Sounds pretty good. Too bad that's not what the book is about.

WARNING! MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!

This is Christopher's fourth book. At least one of the previous books featured Finn and Billy. I haven't read them and, having read The Aztec Heresy, I don't think I ever will. I can only guess that the characters of Finn and Billy were fleshed out in the previous book(s). That would explain why there's virtually no character development in this book.

While on the subject of characters, is there anything more boring than an impoverished British lord turned fortune hunter? Just saying.

There's so much wrong with the back cover blurb I don't know where to start. Okay. Let's take it sentence by sentence.

“...Finn stumbles upon a mystery dating back to the Spanish Inquisition – and a secret with catastrophic implication for the present...”

At the beginning of the book Finn and Billy are in the reading rooms of the General Archives of the Indies in Seville, Spain. The reason why they are there in the first place is never explained. While there Billy translates a bunch of documents pertaining to 16th century Spanish ships. In one he finds the name of a Dominican Friar that Finn recognizes. Her father had previously mentioned the Friar in connection with a codex. Finn decides to abandon whatever brought them to the records and go after this codex which may or may not exist.

“a secret with catastrophic implications for the present.”

The codex supposedly contains a map to Cortez's treasure. No secrets. No heresy. Just a stupid treasure map.

“Finn and Billy soon realize they are not alone in their quest.”

Actually they are alone. The other characters in the book have other reasons for wanting them out of the way.

“Also on the trail is the head of a menacing religious cadre, who will kill to get the codex first...”

Cardinal Rossi wants to stop Finn and Billy from getting to the ship because if they find it it will connect to the Vatican somehow and it will look very bad. It's all very vague and never explained. Eventually we learn that Rossi is part of a secret group that grew from Propaganda Due The new group is called Cavallo Nero which the book states means Black Knight. Where the hell were the editors? Cavallo Nero means black horse.

“...a sociopathic billionaire, with his own sinister reasons for wanting to possess it...”

The billionaire is the head of a drug company. His company wants to add a substance extracted from a plant that grows in the Yucatan that makes anything addictive. (???!) He's dealing with a drug lord named Guzman. He's in a rush to get products on the market before anyone finds out why people get addicted to his products.

At one point, the billionaire has his son try and kill Finn and Billy but there's no real reason given. I suppose Rossi told him too. No real explanation.

The bulk of the novel is a drawn out story of Guzman, the Cuban sub commander who transports Guzman's drugs and a Mexican spy. The big draw is a nuclear bomb that was carried by an American plane that crashed in the 60s. The last two characters in this book are a German/American information broker hired by the billionaire and a hired assassin working for the Cardinal.

Rossi convinced the Vatican bank to invest in the billionaire's company knowing full well that he was in bed with a known drug lord. If that got out it would be disastrous for the the Church. Nothing to do with the codex at all.

Finn and Billy eventually find the treasure. We're told that in two lines. It's not relevant to the story. The Mexican spy (with Finn and Billy's help) gets rid of the bomb. Most of the people involved are dead by the end of the book. The assassin kills the information broker and walks off into the sunset...

So there you have it. Misleading is the nicest thing I can say about that book cover. I think it would have been an interesting story without all the codex nonsense. I've just realized that this feels like a “contractual obligation” book. It feels as if Christopher was under contract to write another Finn and Billy book so he wrote this mess.