The Death Relic is pure adventure. The central characters Jonathan Payne and David Jones are called to Mexico to help out a past acquaintance who believes that she’s in trouble.
There’s a lot going on in this book. Concurrent storylines run together and it’s only towards the end that the reader discovers the link between the abduction of a professional kidnapper’s children and the search for the missing, possibly abducted researcher that their colleague, Maria Pelati, has requested them to help her find.
The plot is filled with unexpected turns, including the return of a missing, presumed dead colleague from a prior mission and a gun battle between abductor and bodyguard that takes place in the Mayan ruins deep in the Mexican jungle.
Kuzneski has clearly done his research on both the Mayan culture as well as US military tactics as both flow through the book, educating the reader at the same time as entertaining them. It can be a lot to take in at times, but the payoff at the end of the book is worth the set up.
The characters are well rounded, strong individuals who live in the reader’s mind instead of just words on the page. A lot of this is created by the gentle teasing that goes between Payne and Jones, whose history together as former leaders of Special Forces Unit, the MANIACS, is referred to, but not gone into with the depth that would alienate regular readers of Kuzneski’s work with these characters. The use of humour creates depth to the characters and keeps the reader involved, caring about what might happen next in the story and how it will affect these people.
The potential for romance is set up between Jones and Maria towards the end of the book that will leave readers hoping for more.
Their search for the researcher will lead them to discover the Death Relic, and what makes this artefact so desirable.