Berkley Publishing Group, New York
The African Quest is Lyn Hamilton’s fifth book in a series that began some six years ago with The Xibalba Murders. The series is a delightful addition to the ever-growing sub-genres of mysteries and thrillers that use archaeology as an integral part of the background and plot. Ms. Hamilton is improving with each addition to this series, both in terms of plot and character development as well as her overall writing skills.
In The African Quest, her heroine, Canadian-based antique dealer Lara McClintoch, leads an “antique and archaeology” tour to Tunisia, an exotic land of Roman ruins and modern Arab cities. We are introduced to her band of tourists—a motley group if ever there was one, and before long Lara finds herself almost stumbling over dead bodies—most of whom are (or were) paying members of her tour group! Not only is this bad for business—the tour was a public relations gambit suggested by Lara’s ex-husband and still business partner—but the remaining members of the group may well be in danger as Lara’s feverish investigations hint strongly that the murderer comes from within the group and that the reason for the killings is somehow inextricably linked to the tour itself. Roman gold, ancient coins, and competing underwater archaeologists are mixed into this stew of murder, mayhem and intrigue and we as readers are treated to some ancient history (the Punic Wars), some very descriptive travel writing of a fascinating part of the world, and a complex whodunit with some wonderfully colorful (and weird) characters.
It is interesting to note that Ms. Hamilton has, in fact, conducted an “antique and archaeology tour” to Malta in conjunction with one of her earlier Lara McClintoch novels. In her acknowledgements, she assures us that those members of her 1999 “Maltese Goddess” tour were nothing like the group of churlish misfits described in African Quest, but the descriptions of those characters is so lively and vivid that one wonders if perhaps just one or two members of her Malta group might have served as models.