The Smoke Hunter

by Jacquelyn Benson

3.5 stars, actually. For me, this story of an 1898 female archeologist determined to find the meaning of a Central American stone necklace and a lost city never quite gelled.

Cool Central American references to Aztec gods and myths? Check. Handsome adventurer to accompany her? Check. Jungle, river, and tomb adventures? Check.

So why only 3.5 stars? Ellie is some kind of strange combo of super-naive and clever. She goes to Central American intending to hike through the jungles in search of a legendary city all alone, something I wouldn’t even attempt in the modern age because of poisonous things. But she can figure out closed-door traps under extreme pressure?

I wished she had more repartee with Adam, the guide. Their romance could have had quite a lot more supressed tension to it, but it kind of just appears after Ellie thinks about how handsome he is a couple times. I wanted more African Queen type insulting on the river as they head towards the city, and I wanted Ellie to be more useful and brave (rather than needlessly naive about things like, say, hacking through a jungle with a machete) in order to win Adam’s regard. This is a sweet romance with just a bit of kissing, so that’s also not my preferred level of steam.

I kind of slogged through the story for most of it, and then when they finally reach the city things became much more interesting. Maybe because this is when a hint of the magical appears, and also when the main bulk of the Central American myths, gods, stories, etc. gets woven into the story more meaningfully.

So kind of a fun, light story of adventure with some Aztec/Mayan interesting bits, and nothing emotionally heavy, however since I didn’t quite invest with the main characters I probably wouldn’t seek out more historical thrillers by this author.