Have you ever picked up a new release from bookshelves with anticipation and confidence that the read is going to be great...because you've known the author and his style, know the characters that feature in the novel? How many times have the author lived up to your expectations? For me, it usually ends up in disappointment when I expect much from the author. Sadly, over the years the disappointment for anticipated novels have given way to bad expectations... most prominent of the examples was the Harry Potter series finale. Deathly Hollows literally felt like a rushed-to-meet-the-deadline novel. It was very disappointing. (though I have to admit, the movie was better than the novel)... something similar happened when I was reading The Death Relic by Chris Kuzneski.
I've read ALL of his novel, except his debut novel, The Plantation. There is a protagonist duo in his novel, Jonathan Payne and David Jones. Both ex-military men, one white other one black, both from different family background and posses a varied skillset....BEST of friends. I met them both in Kuzneski's second novel, The Sign of Cross. Interesting plot, riveting flow and an interesting writing style was what entered Kuzneski in one of my safe writers list. With the following novels to SoC, I was proved right for trusting his writing and storylines. So, when I saw his latest novel The Death Relic and the backcover claimed it was Payne and Jones novel, I picked it up without much thinking. I even remember saying to myself, "Its a Payne and Jones novel, its GOT to be good." yeah...right
Frankly, I wasn't expecting the novel to be this unstructured. 3/4th of the novel is spent on mindless and pointless pursuit. The novel opens up with a old friend Maria Pelati traveling to meet a world renowned archaeologist for a job offer in Mexico. The archaeologist is kidnapped in middle of the meeting with Maria and then when she returns to her hotel suite, she finds it trashed. She calls up Jonathan for help and Payne & Jones land up in Mexico to help her out. While this all is happening, there's a parallel drama unfolding in the Mexico city in life of a Mafia lord. A reader is roped into all this with ease and by the time you reach 100 pages you expect the drama to unfold to show interconnections and dependencies in both crimes. In a 500 page novel, this chase takes up 400 odd pages. In the last 100 or so pages the ACTUAL story unweils.
While I was reading, I actually thought that may be Kuzneski has writen his first to-be-continued novel. Part one of the great mysterious Death Relic series or something like that. Sadly, I was mistaken. In the end, the whole story seemed to have rushed. It was almost as if author had a page limit and he had to write down the summary of the mystery instead of actually expanding on the idea, since he took too much time in the initial pages. The name of the novel is not justified, coz the so called Relic is mentioned only at the end of the novel, and the discovery of the relic and "treasure" is so fast, it almost felt like reading a Tintin comic.
Kuzneski spent too much ime in the initial part of his story with loads of flashbacks, and background information about Maria, and Petr; which was highly unnecessary and very repetative. This actually not only took up pages, but also has hampered the flow of the storyline. I wish he had taken less pages in the initial parts while focusing a little more on the actual story for the novel...Mayan / Aztec history AND the unfolding of Discovering the relic and treasure.
So...What's the verdict?