It is the late eighties as this novel set in New Orleans opens. Private Investigator Micah Dunn, home from Vietnam for quite some time and still suffering flashbacks and war injuries, is used to people staring at his left arm. He doesn’t have much use of it and usually tucks his left hand into his pants pocket for support and control. Something that Dr. Gregory Thorpe notices immediately and asks if his handicap is a detriment in his line of work.

After Dunn explains that most PI work is documents related and waiting, lots of waiting, Dr. Thorpe finally begins to outline his problem and one that the police can’t help him with at all. Somebody is messing with Dr. Thorpe’s exhibition of artifacts brought back from the Mayan city of Ek Balam located on the Yucatán peninsula. Somebody keeps adding items one at a time to the various displays. When a display is supposed to contain three items and suddenly contains four, visitors and staff notice. Dr. Gregory isn’t a popular man and he has several suspects in mind.

Somebody is going to considerable effort to plant the realistic fakes in an effort to discredit Dr. Thorpe and Micah Dunn figures a couple of days max and the case will be wrapped up. That is what he thinks, before a death of one of Dr. Thorpe’s suspects happens literally outside Micah Dunn’s home in front of him in the middle of the night and Dr. Thorpe is subsequently arrested for the murder. What begins simply enough in the Crescent City will finally end at the ancient Mayan city making everyone wonder about the curse.

Written by M. K. Shuman who also wrote as M. S. Karl (“Killer’s Ink” among others) this is the first novel of the Micah Dunn Series. Published in 1989 the novel doesn’t follow the current conventions of mysteries that mandate a body to fall in the first chapter, a breakneck opening, etc. Instead, this is a novel that opens slowly and deliberately with background on the characters to give them depth before slowly picking up the story pace. Setting and character developments are the main keys here with action scenes few and far apart with most saved for the last thirty or so pages of the novel.

Slower moving that his Peter Brady Series written as M. S. Karl, this book also has a darker tone to it than that series. Not just because of the frequent Vietnam flashbacks which serve to build character back story in several very different areas, but Dunn’s perceptions of the world are much darker. While Peter Brady packs it in and runs to rural Louisiana to own and operate a small town paper and lick his wounds, he believes ultimately that most people are good at heart and want to get along. Dunn is much more cynical about the world and looks it as a hard place where everyone is hiding some dark secret or action. Dunn is often right but is that because the world is such as he sees it or a self fulfilling prophecy?

While not engrossing, this book overall is a solidly good read that delivers on well thought out characters, a complex mystery and themes of history and morality. Not easily available, it is a novel well worth hunting for as it will keep you turning the pages.

The Maya Stone Murders

M. K. Shuman

St. Martin’s Press

http://us.macmillan.com/SMP.aspx

1989

Hardback

246 Pages

My sincere thanks to the staff of the Central Library of the Houston, Texas Public Library system who provided a copy of this book via the interlibrary loan program. If it was not for the staff of the local Plano, Texas library system as well as staff of libraries across the country, many of the reviews you have seen of mine in various places the past decade simply would not have ever appeared. I also would not have had the many hours of reading pleasure made possible by librarians.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

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