Tears of the Jaguar by A.J. Hartley is a thriller is the most mundane sense of the word. Sure there are action sequences that keep you reading, but there just seems to be missing something (which I’ll get into a little bit later).
The story revolves around Deborah Miller, the site supervisor at a Mayan archeological dig, and delves into the point of view of almost every character in the book at some point, even a cabbie at one point. The action starts after a huge storm hits the site and opens up an underground cavern where the dig team discovers jewels, bones, and other grave goods.
After the discovery, it seems like all hell breaks loose. Everyone and their mother are interested in the rubies that were discovered. The tomb gets robbed, there are all sorts of nefarious characters running amok, and then Eustachio, the dig site’s foreman gets killed in a ritualistic and bloody manner. It’s after the robbery that things just totally start going haywire. There’s so much going on, which is usually a good thing.If you throw lots of clues at your readers, and you leave them guessing. Unfortunately, for Tears, not a single one of these possibilities are just red herrings. Some of the suspicious parties involved are crooked archeologists, CIA, MI5, gun runners, distraught parents, a sociopath, a poor graduate student who just wants to get laid, and of course, Deborah—the only person who’s just interested in the story and finding out the truth behind the rubies and the bones.
So what’s missing? Discretion, focus, and cohesion. The story line is everywhere. One group wants the rubies because they might be the lost crown jewels, one group wants them for laser-making, and another wants them for ritualistic, sacrificial purposes, and they all seem to know where to be and where to go at the same time. Hey, let’s go to England—alright POOF! EVERYONE IS IN ENGLAND!
This book could have done with some more story-level editing. The chaos borders on unbelievable. I’m surprised that aliens weren’t mentioned at all as a possible reason for the rubies to have been buried in the Mayan ruins.
I’ve definitely read worse books. Tears is interesting and, as I said before, action packed. It just lacks focus. I probably will read more A.J. Hartley in the future and hope this erraticness is just a fluke, because the heart of the story had some real potential.