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Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center

The Antiquities Hunter by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff

September 1, 2019

Pegasus Books Ltd:  New York City
2018 (HC)

This, the first novel featuring witty, feisty and self-effacing San Francisco P.I. Gina Miyoko, is an absolute delight.   Before attaining her license as a private eye, Gina had earned a degree in criminal justice. Graduated from the police academy and was a three-year veteran of the San Francisco Police Department—none of which seems to have impressed her Russian Orthodox mother as she toils tirelessly to find Gina a suitable husband, but is a source of pride to her Japanese-American father, an SFPD retiree who heads up a band of Sherlock Holmes devotees.  And, by the way, Gina is also a black belt in martial arts, is licensed to carry a firearm, rides a Harley-Davidson,  lives on a houseboat, and jingles with assorted good luck charms provided by her mother to ward off unspecified harm!

While her backstory is entertaining and her family and friends are colorful, Gina’s workaday life is a bit more prosaic as she shadows miscreant spouses and other lowlife types; that is, until her best friend Rose Delgado, an undercover operative for the National Parks Service, asks her for help as she fears that she is the target of a stalker – very possibly because of one of the cases she is working on:  the theft of Native American art from the Heard Museum in Phoenix, or the looting of Anasazi artifacts by a notorious pot hunting family, or a small time fence named Ted Bridges who has been directing “hot” antiquities to the Sommers Auction House, or a cemetery desecration on the Hopi reservation, or the sketchy provenance behind the gifting of Mayan artifacts from the Hochob Site in the Mexican state of Campeche to a Bay Area museum.  The list of possible villains seems endless.

Gina and Rose lay a successful trap for the stalker, who claims to be Cruz Santiago Veras, a journalist/archaeologist working for the INAH, Mexico’s national institute for anthropology and history.  But is he all he claims to be?  Can he be trusted?  He claims to be seeking out the same antiquities traffickers that Rose and her NPS colleagues have in their sights,  and after a series of events that lead to both the killing of Ted Bridges, the antiquities fence, and the near assassination of Rose, Gina and Veras follow the trail of the artifact smuggling cartel to the Mexican tourist mecca of Cancun and from there into the jungles of Chiapas State and the discovery of a wondrous archaeological treasure trove that can turn businessmen into thieves and patriots into killers.

The Antiquities Hunter is, by turn, funny, whimsical, thrilling, and action-packed.  The characters, both major and minor, are carefully crafted and the plot is tantalizing and deftly constructed.  Four trowels for the first Gina Miyoko mystery.