Empire of Gold
by Andy McDermott
(Bantam, $9.99, GV) ISBN 978-0-553-59365-5
***
Englishman Eddie Chase is a former SAS bodyguard now a freelancer. He has a certain moral ethic that has kept him from accepting jobs that are basically an assassin for hire. His wife, Nina Wilde, is an American archaeologist of some note, having been involved in the search for Atlantis. This time Nina has discovered some Incan artifacts that may lead her and her team to the long lost City of Gold, El Dorado.

The world of archaeology seems to be a small one with the most respected contributors aiding each other in uncovering bits of the past of interest to those in the present. Of course there are always others primarily concerned with their own monetary status and/or fame. Eddie's own father, Larry Chase, from whom he is estranged, deals in international logistics, which Eddie has wryly translated as smuggling. In addition, a man that Eddie knows from his SAS days, Alexander Stikes, hires himself out as a mercenary.

Incan artifacts are a subject of concern in Latin America from political, social, economic, and historical angles. The governments of Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela, the drug lords that do business within these countries, and the indigenous people who are descended from the Incans all have their own view on how ancient artifacts and ruins should be handled. These varying views lead to conflict. Nina, because she has discovered some artifacts that are potentially quite valuable, and Eddie because he is acting as a bodyguard for his wife, are thrown into the middle of the melee.

Empire of Gold is a prototypical blockbuster thriller. Assuming that one can accept that Eddie seems to have the athleticism of a professional athlete and the resiliency of Superman, as well as more than his share of luck, the book is an enjoyable read. Eddie literally leaps from one life threatening situation to another, sustaining injuries that would put most humans in the hospital for weeks; yet he, out of necessity for keeping Nina safe or settling a score with one of his enemies, soldiers on without complaint.

There is no shortage of action in this novel. Scaling cliffs, trucks going off cliffs, helicopter rescues, as well as hand-to-hand combat figure prominently in the plot. Empire of Gold is a veritable Disneyland of exciting encounters between people who have no intention of playing nice with one another. One can easily imagine this novel adapted for the screen. The special effects technicians would have a ball.

Eddie Chase is one of those good guys that is a bit hard to like. He has serious anger management issues and this guy really knows how to savor a grudge. He probably gets some of his temperament from his father who shows many of the same characteristics, but Larry would like to reconnect with his son while Eddie has no interest in trying to forgive his father for past sins. Eddie's relationship with his wife shows similar strain in that he cannot deal with his anger and does not respect the importance her job has for her.

All told Empire of Gold is a good choice for a long plane ride or a weekend when outdoor activities are not looking good. The writing is competent but there are not any serious questions to ponder when the last pages has been turned

--Andy Plonka


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