Gwen Moffat lives in Cumbria. Her novels are set in remote communities ranging from the Hebrides to the American West. The crimes fit their environment, swelling that dreadful record of sin in the smiling countryside cited by Sherlock Holmes. The style echoes this: rustic charm masking horror.
Topical from first to last: Maria, a student, jumps ship to join an archaeological dig in Guatemala, flouting her parents who think she’s on a Caribbean cruise.
But this dig is an elaborate scam by kidnappers to lure Alvaredo, Maria’s father, back to his native country from which he fled when the regime changed and he was charged with genocide. Now he is a naturalized American, heading his own company supplying human tissue to a growing market, a business that is highly profitable and totally unregulated.
A ransom is demanded and Alvaredo rises to the bait, flying to the rescue, but this is a man who has recruited death squads and he brings powerful reinforcements. Maria, now captive in a remote jungle clinic, risks being caught in crossfire. The danger is augmented when the FBI is alerted, an agent, Caitlyn, detailed to find father and daughter and effect a rescue. She is followed by Carver, her lover and fellow agent. No mean support, he has just emerged unscathed after working undercover with a vicious biker gang.
The narrative switches between characters, from FBI to villains to unknown quantities. A beautiful youth, a patient at the clinic, carries an artificial heart with batteries in a pack as he waits for a transplant; he can only be a spanner in the works.
A crescendo of cat-and-mouse action: Maria’s escape and recapture, the revelation of horrors and threats of annihilation, all build to a climax in a limestone underworld where survivors of a devastating atrocity are found living in proximity to an ancient temple. As the bait for the original scam this Mayan site now figures in its own right with its treasure of gold and emeralds - and a pit containing the bones of innumerable victims: the scene of the last gunfight.
Easy reading. The horror not overdone and no explicit sex. A nice stocking filler for fans of Hammer movies.