by Carolyn Arnold
Series: Matthew Connor Adventure, #2eARC, 436 pg.
Hibbert & Stiles Publishing, Inc., 2018
Read: April 6 – 7, 2018
Noted thrill-seeker, adventurer and archaeologist in the Indiana Jones mold, Matt Connor, is contacted by a former colleague with a more-than-tempting offer: she’s pretty sure that she’s on the trail of a fascination of Matt’s — the Emerald Tablets — and would he like to help look for them? Matt jumps at the chance and persuades Dr. Alexandria Leonard to let him bring his two friends along — they’ve come along on many of his previous escapades and will be a helpful addition to this one, too.
He just has to convince them to come. Following the three of them being compelled to find the lost City of Gold, they’ve plunged themselves into their very tame careers and personal lives and away from excitement. Matt convinces them to come along (or the book would’ve been much shorter), and they head to Egypt a couple of days later. Keeping things very secret from just about everyone, of course, because these Emerald Tablets have great power — we’re not told anything about this power, just that no one wants it to fall into the wrong hands. When people first started talking about them in those terms, I rolled my eyes, until I realized that this was a world in which that was a thing — tablets have power, the Ark of the Covenant probably took out a bunch of Nazis and Bobby probably found an ancient tiki that carried a curse. Once I figured out that was the kind of book I was reading, things made a little more sense. We are told almost nothing else about the Tablets, but from the way everyone acts about them (at least everyone that believes in them), you can tell they’re a pretty big deal.
Once they arrive, things start to good poorly for the expedition — and not in small ways, but they struggle through it all (mostly). The Tablets are not easily found — if they even exist, that is. But there’s plenty of other archeological finds to focus on — and some real dangers. Like, say, snakes. Arnold does a great job depicting how snakes can really creep a person out — even a person safely reading about them on their Kindle thousands of miles away from a single asp. Although at a certain point, they just disappear — like Hamlin’s Pied Piper sauntered through Egypt and every asp left with him. It was a bit disconcerting once they stopped being a concern — especially in the last chapters where they really could’ve been a looming presence — after being everywhere for a while.
This was a fun little adventure story, nothing too intense, nothing too serious, just a nice little diversion (which is good thing). But it could’ve been better, too.
Early on, when the characters are getting to know each other and get comfortable in Egypt, I really had some trouble with the conversation. Matt’s friend and photographer (ugh, don’t get me started on the drama surrounding bringing along a photographer), Cal, can serve a great role for the reader. Cal’s only a hobbiest when it comes to this stuff from hanging out with his friend — so he can ask a lot of questions that Arnold can use to plug the reader into the world. It’s a thankless task that characters in books and TV shows have to play letting the “stars” show off their expertise. That’s all well and good, but man, Cal asked some pretty dumb questions — and what’s worse, characters in and around the field of archeology were way too impressed with others answering simple questions — questions I could’ve answered. That was hard to swallow, but easy to get past.
But was really hard to get past — if only because she kept throwing it in your face — was the unsubtle emotional stories. Alex’s other friend, Robyn, is clearly the love of his life — and vice versa. But they broke up years ago, while neither has let go. And one or the other of them (and occasionally, Cal) is thinking about this every few pages, without doing anything about it. And when another romance is kindled in Egypt, the melodrama gets hard to swallow — seriously, in an early draft of Twilight, Stephanie Meyer would’ve cut this kind of stuff for being “too high school.” Unless I’m remembering incorrectly, Arnold can do subtle emotions, this didn’t seem to be the same author who wrote Remnants — and that’s a shame.
The pacing of this was disappointing — we got too much set-up, far too much time establishing the various storylines in Egypt, and then we rushed through the conclusion. I think the heart of the adventure took the last 20 percent of the book! It needed to be longer just to give it the necessary dramatic weight — and to make the last challenges these characters faced seem more difficult and fraught than a run down to Tim Horton’s for donuts and coffee.
The mystery component (for lack of a better word), was far too easy to figure out — but it wasn’t framed as a whodunit, so that’s not a slight on Arnold. But it does make you wonder about the powers of observation displayed by Matt, Cal, Alex and the rest. But the villainous characters did their overall job, keeping things moving and providing a way for Matt and the rest to have the adventure the book they needed.
I’ve given a lot of space here to my relatively minor complaints — but it takes a bit of space to express them. I did have a good time reading the book. Matt’s a fun character — ditto for Cal. I enjoyed the chemistry between the central characters and could’ve easily read another hundred pages or more with them and not really noticed or minded. As long as the high school stuff was downplayed — when that wasn’t a focus, I wanted more time with all the characters.
This is the second in a series, but would be a find jumping-on point. I do recommend this for people looking for a light adventure, and can see myself coming back for another go-round with these characters — I know Arnold can do better than this (and this wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t as good as it could’ve been).
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Hibbert & Stiles Publishing in exchange for this post. I appreciate the opportunity to read this book.