Yxta Maya Murray,
Red Lion #2: The King's Gold
(Harper, 2008)

Lola Sanchez's wedding to Erik Gomara is only two weeks away when dark, dangerous Marco walks into her bookshop and hands her two mysteries. The first concerns Aztec gold stolen by Antonio Medici, alchemist, werewolf and sometime conquistador. The legend has it that Antonio returned to Italy after being turned into a werewolf in the Americas. There, he hid his stolen gold, leaving behind a letter to the nephew he detested giving clues to the gold's location, as well as expressing the fervent hope that his nephew would be killed by the diabolical traps that guarded each clue as well as the treasure.

What Marco has brought to Lola is that letter. Although Marco initially kidnaps Lola from her shop, she gets onto a plane to Italy willingly enough -- like the heroes of the adventure novels she loves, she cannot resist a puzzle of this nature.

The second mystery has to do with Marco's identity and why he came to Lola -- a bookshop owner, not an academic -- to begin with. It will be some while before Lola learns that Marco's family and hers are entwined in a rather murderous relationship.

Lola and Marco (and his two scary henchmen) are joined in Italy by her fiancé Erik. Together -- however unwillingly -- the five of them begin the search for Antonio's stolen gold. But like the alchemical processes of old, each will be irrevocably changed by their quest.

The King's Gold is the sequel to The Queen Jade and the second book in The Red Lion Series (named after Lola's bookshop). It is interesting to note, given how large a role alchemy plays in this novel, that "red lion" is an alchemical term, especially since it is in this book that Lola's own transmutation from California bookshop owner to adventuress is cemented.

The pacing of this novel is frenetic -- there are very few moments of quiet reflection. At first, there is the looming deadline of Lola and Erik's wedding, but that is quickly eclipsed by the running to avoid both the authorities and the bad guys and to beat the latter to the next clue.

Comparisons with The Da Vinci Code are, perhaps, inevitable, but Lola is less like Robert Langdon and more like Indiana Jones -- or perhaps more like Indie's one-time love Marion Ravenwood, the daughter of famous academics who is drawn into adventure. In any case, Lola's adventures make for excellent summer reading -- the literary equivalent of the popcorn flick.

review by
Laurie Thayer

16 August 2008

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