If you’re looking for a sweet and sappy romance – move along. This one is a kick-ass action-adventure full of gunfights, knife fights, fistfights, chases, fantastic escapes and some pretty sophomoric humour. Things progress at a break-neck speed and it’s a heck of a lot of fun – think Indiana Jones, Lara Croft and Alan Quartermain. The story is reminiscent of the old movie serials where the main characters race from one improbable and breathtaking cliffhanger to the next. Definitely the most non-stop, action-centric lesfic I’ve read in a very long time (if not ever).
The book starts off with Easy Nevada up to her neck in trouble (literally) and doesn’t let up as she gets out of one mess only to end up smack dab in in another as the story barrels along. Easy is an unapologetic treasure hunter who is hot on the trail of the thirteenth artifact for her mysterious employer. She’s convinced the artifact is buried in a sunken pyramid in the Sudan. Luckily, or unluckily, this same pyramid is being excavated by a team of archaeologists led by Candice Cushing. Posing as a reporter, Easy gains access to the dig; but, before she can sneak into the pyramid to retrieve the treasure, a coup erupts in the capital, Khartoum, and a band of Islamic extremists descend upon the camp intent on destroying the find in the name of religious purity. Pursued by the militants, Easy and Candice escape into the pyramid. There’s a great deal of blood and guts in the book with an impressive arsenal of weapons and a pretty high body count, with quite a bit of violence through gunfights, knives and good old fisticuffs. There’s also a number of shady characters skulking about in the background, pulling strings and hinting at a larger conspiracy – it’s campy and fun.
By her own admission, Easy Nevada is a 12 year old boy in a hot woman’s body. Driven by a two track mind – find the treasure and get in Candice’s pants – she bounces through the story with a irreverent charm and unbelievable resilience (dear god she’s repeatedly pummeled, shot, drugged – she is the energizer bunny). There’s something about her that reminds me of Quinn from Keira Delacroix’s Icehole – a total bad-ass with a mind in the gutter and a mouth that would put a sailor to shame. She may not always have a plan, but she always has a comeback and once she’s committed to a course of action she sees it through. Despite the smart-ass she appears to be, there is a bit more depth to Easy – and Ms Kaplan drops some hints as to her past and motivations in becoming a devil-may-care treasure hunter.
As a polar opposite, Candice Cushing is a reserved and diligent British archaeologist who has returned to her homeland, Sudan, to make her mark by unearthing a lost pyramid and a tomb that is untouched by grave robbers. Between the arrival of Easy, with her suspect and continued flirting, and the invasion by the Khamsin, she’s completely off kilter, struggling to catch up and keep ahead of the dangers. You have to give Candice props – unlike Easy, she didn’t sign up for being chased by terrorists through a deteriorating pyramid and is wholly unprepared for storming a train, but she quickly adapts and keeps up. At times she’s a few steps ahead of Easy and you can see her confidence in her abilities and confidence grow. She has a strong moral compass and isn’t afraid to push back on Easy’s plans or throw all in with her and her crazy-ass treasure hunt.
Although there isn’t a really strong element of romance – other than Easy’s continued propositioning of Candice and Candice’s rather amusing rebuffs – there’s definitely a connection between the two women. Separately they are impressive, but together they are pretty much unstoppable (just ask Farouq Al-Jabbar) and the spark is definitely set in the first part of this series.
Luckily, Ms. Kaplan doesn’t end this with a cliffhanger – even though I was seriously expecting one. She’s wrapped up the first phase of the adventures of Easy Nevada and Candice Cushing (a bit battered and worse for wear) – and set the stage for the next leg of the treasure hunt. I, for one, will be popping up a big bowl of popcorn and setting an evening aside to find out what comes next with Candice Cushing and Lost Tomb of Cleopatra. 🙂