Review: Place of Fear by Ken Pelham


☆☆➹⁀☆ 4 stars☆➹⁀☆☆


What it’s about:

Deep in the rainforest of Guatemala, a missing scientist, long given up for dead, languishes in a lightless prison cell. Fueled by a powerful, unknown narcotic, his senses are on fire; he can feel them expanding far beyond human bounds, even as the drug tears at his sanity.

Upon learning that his friend is alive, Carson Grant mounts a frenzied rescue before the appointed time of execution. While a cutthroat band of looters, seeking easy riches, closes in for the kill, Grant stumbles onto the remnant of a mysterious hybrid civilization intent on destroying anyone that threatens to expose it. Trapped and desperate, Grant entrusts his team’s survival into the hands of a young Maya cop and his beautiful, haunted sister.

Winner of the 2012 Royal Palm Literary Award, PLACE OF FEAR propels you inexorably toward a collision between Norse myth and Maya history, wherein only ultimate sacrifice brings survival. PLACE OF FEAR is the stunning prequel hinted at in BRIGANDS KEY.

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Place of Fear is an action-packed adventure that reminded me of an Indiana Jones film. A team of archeologists on the search for a lost colleague encounter crooked government officials, looters, mysticism and a fabled location and tribe. You couldn’t ask for more!

There are multiple narrators in Place of Fear, and that allows readers a greater understanding of the multitudes of characters. While the main character, Grant Carson, is the most developed, Mr. Pelham has given readers plenty of insight into the secondary and tertiary characters as well. The story alternates between the team of archeologists, some questionable local officials and leaders, and occasionally a scene from the missing archeologist. Pelham steadily builds the tension and sense of dread as Grant Carson’s team gets closer to their destination and as the summer solstice deadline nears. Unlike Indiana Jones and Romancing the Stone story lines, there is a great deal of death and peril in Place of Fear, and not all of the good guys remain unscathed and whole. Most of the story is well-paced, but I could have done with shorter battle scenes, and there were a few grisly scenes that I wasn’t sure that I could finish reading.

I loved the inclusion of local mysticism. It enabled the nefarious characters to play on locals’ fears as well as increase the sense of menace in some scenes. The archeologists are like kids open gifts on Christmas when they come across a new find while searching for their friend/coworker. Their wonder at what they stumble across is tempered by their desire to keep it whole and safe from looters.

I listened to rather than read this book, and I have to say that narrator, Mark Kamish, truly made the book come alive. I’ve listened to several books he has narrated—romance, nonfiction and adventure, and he is remarkably versatile.

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