Monday, June 15, 2009

The Treasure of La Malinche

The Treasure of La Malinche
(Volumes 1 & 2)
by Jeffry S. Hepple

(CreateSpace / Volume 1: 1-440-43341-0 & 978-1-440-44341-2 / 706 pages / Volume 2: 1-440-44345-3 & 978-1-440-44345-0 / 704 pages / November 2008 / $19.95 each / Kindle Volume 1 $2.39 / Kindle Volume 2 $.99)

Reviewed by Dr. Al Past for PODBRAM

Setting out the story line of the two volumes of The Treasure of La Malinche is no simple task. From the title, one would expect it to involve La Malinche and her treasure, and it does, but that is only one part of a long, complex, and evolving story line.

La Malinche was a real person, the Indian translator and wife of Hernán Cortez, conqueror of Mexico. Conveniently for purposes of fiction, very little is known about her, and there have been a number of fictional treatments of her life. One such is created here, in alternating chapters, in the guise of her autobiography. As far as this reviewer can tell, that autobiography hews fairly accurately to the known chronology of the conquest.

In between those chapters flows a modern narrative, beginning with the collection of clues to the treasure and the hunt for the treasure itself. We are introduced to a large cast of characters, and more appear later, though the reader is not as confused as this list might suggest. There is Margarita de Vega, a stunningly beautiful PhD who discovers La Malinche's journal. There is Robert A. Lincoln, the bored head of a security company, who de Vega hires to protect her when bad guys come after the treasure. There is her kinky, manipulative mother, of Spanish nobility, who has married a senior politician in the Mexican government for mysterious reasons of her own. Add in FBI agents, Mexican detectives and police chiefs, American professors, Mexican social and economic chaos, drug cartels running wild, a movement to unite Hispanics in a modern Aztlán, an unstable sex-fiend/murderous Chicano activist, a Colombian drug lord determined to take over the Mexican state of Chihuahua, a family of albino hit persons, luxurious estates which were formerly fortifications, multi-million-dollar bank accounts, and throw in for good measure the troubled souls and mysterious histories of some characters, lost and rediscovered children, machine guns, helicopters, carpet bombing, rescue missions, laser-guided bombs, and you have quite a stew of a story. If that weren't enough, many of the characters are not particularly endearing early on, but change for the better (some for the worse), fall in love, get married, die....

In volume 2, following the resolution of the cliffhanger end of volume 1, La Malinche's journal gradually fades out and the story turns from treasure to Mexican politics, international smuggling and drug dealing, and the relationships between the characters. The pace, if anything, picks up.

Fans of adventure stories, and stories tinged with a little speculative modern history and politics, would likely be delighted. The lover of historical fiction, perhaps intrigued by the title, would be disappointed. This reviewer had the feeling that if this story were to be attempted in visual form, it would not be a movie at all: it would be a TV series, an entire season's worth, perhaps several seasons, of high-voltage excitement. Frankly, it exhausted me, and I like adventure stories.

The author has a nice touch with dialog, fortunately. For the most part, the pages flash right by. At the same time it must be mentioned that the volumes are a textbook example of why a spell-checker is a poor editor. In addition to the understandable assortment of missing quotation marks, commas, and whatnot, mismatched homophones abounded, one every page or two, some new to me (as in people "clamoring" aboard a boat, or climbers having a difficult "assent," but an easy "decent"). Some readers might sail right over these. Those who find them jarring should be warned.

I have mentioned in other reviews that I have a friend who likes his movies lean and tightly edited, but prefers his novels by the pound, the better to wallow in them. If that friend were looking for the type of action/adventure described above, he would be in hog heaven. The paper editions of these books come to something like four and a half pounds. Mercifully, in my case I read the Kindle editions, the ideal way to read two giant page-turners with minimal risk to one's musculoskeletal system. Additionally, the Kindle editions are a great bargain.

See Also: The Author's Website
Jeffry S. Hepple's Authors Den Page

1 comment:

Al said...

Good news: I have just learned that the Kindle edition has been re-edited and now reads much more smoothly. Score one for Kindle!