My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Okay, I think I have given this series a fair trial, but I'm finding it very hard to take the main character seriously or to care about what happens to her. She comes across as a person without normal intelligence and reasoning ability, with more than a dash of petty vengefulness. The stories are about subjects that interest me, but Lara McClintoch as a character is totally off-putting.
McClintoch is half-owner of an antiques shop in Toronto. In addition to being an antiques shop owner, she seems to have a second career as a globe-trotting solver of murder mysteries. Well, doesn't every antiques shop owner?
In The Moche Warrior Lara's nose is severely put out of joint when her ex-husband opens a brand new antique shop just across the street from hers. She's sure that he's doing it just to spite her and she determines that she will have her revenge.
At an auction, when she sees that the ex REALLY wants a particular box, she bids against him and wins the box, even though she has to use her personal credit card to pay for it. She takes the box home, thinking that it is nothing special. It appears to contain reproductions of Moche ceramics, but then someone tries breaking into her shop and part of the contents of the box - a supposedly reproduction Moche vase and a peanut-shaped bead - go missing.
But that is only the beginning. Soon, someone tries to burn down the shop and among the ruins is the body of a man who had been at the auction bidding on some of the same items as Lara. The police suspect Lara and/or her assistant and friend Alex, who was present when the blaze started and who had received a blow to the head which has erased his memory of the events.
Lara belatedly comes to the conclusion that the Moche "reproductions" in her box were actually priceless artifacts from archaeological digs. It is illegal to take such artifacts out of Peru. Has she stumbled into the middle of a art smuggling operation?
Instead of cooperating with the police - even her friend, the Royal Canadian Mountie Rob that we met in the last book - Lara decides to investigate all on her own, because ... of course she does.
Her investigations lead her to New York where she stumbles over another dead body of an antiques dealer. Then she decides she has to go to the source of the mystery and she heads off to Peru, by way of Mexico. She stops in Mexico City to ask for the help of her former lover, a Mexican archaeologist and freedom fighter turned politician. He helps her establish a new identity and sends her to Peru with a letter of introduction to an archaeologist working in the area from which the mysterious artifacts originated.
Arriving in Peru, she is taken on as a part of the archaeological dig team. Soon, there are more dead bodies and more mysteries and Lara is blundering around in the dark looking for clues. It's all very cloak and daggerish. Moreover, it seems that whenever there is a decision to be made, Lara makes the wrong one, and yet somehow, piece by piece, she begins putting together the puzzle and solving the mystery of the Moche artifacts.
The most interesting parts of the book for me were the discussions of Moche culture and some of the aspects of the archaeological dig that rang true. But the character of Lara is just a wet blanket for me. Her case is not helped in the least by the fact that she doesn't understand the proper use of object pronouns. She uses the first person singular pronoun as an object (as in, "She delivered the artifact to Ramon and I.") which just sets my teeth on edge! Why do writers persist in this incorrect usage and why do their editors not correct them?
So, putting aside my dislike of Lara, how shall I rate this book? I do like the story and the archaeological details and the writer's concept for this series, but I find the characters to be such unbelievable cardboard critters that I really think that this will probably serve as the end of my experience in reading the Lara McClintoch Archaeological Mysteries.
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