|A man named Alfonso rocks up and down on used-tire sandals on one side of a bridge that crosses a wild river in the Peruvian jungle. He strangely sing songs a greeting to a wary Jake—the book’s protagonist—beckoning him to cross into his world. Young and unsure of himself, Jake is probing the isolated and gold-rich San Gabán Valley in search of a rogue ex-Peace Corps volunteer.
His quest embroils the reader in a tale of ethics rife with moral twists that centers on a troubled New England free college facing bankruptcy. Its president, the complexed Arthur Malvey, is desperate to save the institution founded a century earlier by a quirky New England whaling captain. Jake has just graduated from the college and has received a fellowship that sends him to Peru to study poverty in the altiplano. Yet, strangely, President Malvey has encouraged Jake to go into the jungle to spy on the former Peace Corps volunteer. Malvey has also masterminded with quirky and self-proclaimed Inca expert Jaime De Cardo—his new hire—to sack unknown ruins in the valley as an ill-conceived means to bail out the college, offering vague promises of tenure in return. Malvey and De Cardo become dependent on each other, one for financial security, the other for academic security.
|De Cardo, however, has a secret life, that threatens the plan as well as himself, sucking Jake and his fiery girlfriend, Jennifer, into its wake and forcing us to confront basic tenets of good versus evil. And it may be that evil comes out on top.
“A richly atmospheric tale of intrigue that takes us from the groves of Boston academe to the Peruvian jungle, via the Louisiana bayou. In his first novel, Hallowell, a distinguished author of nonfiction, writes with deep feeling and grace about the natural world, while supplying this offbeat thriller with more than enough twists and turns to satisfy the suspense-hungry reader.”