The Codex by Douglas Preston: 5*****

As I had mentioned in a prior review, I am finding the books of Douglas Preston extremely bingeable. I had wanted to take a break, but I had an opportunity to read his stand alone adventure novel “The Codex” and it was just too much to pass up. What I like about this book is that it is a standalone novel and if you don’t feel like picking up one of the books in the series that he has written, many with Lincoln Child, this is a gripping action adventure story that begins in Santa Fe, NM and spends most of its time in the jungles of Honduras.

            It begins very simply, three brothers are summoned by their father to his palatial estate outside of Santa Fe and when they arrive they find that he is not there and that the entire house is vacant. It has to be a burglary, and as such they call the police. The police come to investigate and the only items left in the house are a TV set and a DVD player. It becomes obvious to the one detective that before they go any further they should see if there’s anything on the DVD player worth watching. When they turn it on there is the father, Maxwell Broadbent, talking to his sons and telling them how disappointed he has been in them and that his entire fortune is going to be buried with him somewhere in the world. Where, he never tells them, but he wants them to work together and if they can find the burial tomb they can have everything in it as their inheritance. Now just to be clear, the family fortune is worth over $500 million and contains priceless works of art and artifacts from throughout the world because Maxwell Broadbent was a Tomb Raider, a treasure hunter and a man who did anything to get what he wanted in terms of art and relics.

            The three brothers have never really worked together because they are the product of three different wives and therefore have had very differing relationships with their father. One is an assistant professor at a Community College, another is searching for the meaning of life with numerous different religions and leaders, and the third is a veterinarian living in Utah and helping residents of the Navajo reservation. And despite the fathers exhortation to work together that’s the last thing that happens. Every child goes their own way and decides what they want to do but it is only the professor who decides to contact Max Broadbent’s former partner who is now a private detective/soldier of fortune and who knows exactly where Max has taken everything. They set off for the rainforest of Honduras and shortly thereafter the other two brothers decide individually to make their own way to Honduras. One of the items that is in the tomb is a codex on which is written over 2000 years worth of medical knowledge from the Mayans as to what plants in the rainforest can be used to make medicines and the restorative qualities of many of these trees, plants, leaves, etc.

Once everyone makes it to Honduras this is one fast moving adventure book. The author follows all three brothers as they attempt to  find the tomb of their father and collect the inheritance. The veterinarian has teamed up with young lady who can translate the Mayan codex and who is an ethnopharmacologist and is hoping to get the codex for the benefit of all mankind. And we also have two competing pharmaceutical companies trying to get their hands up on the codex.

            There are surprises galore in the Honduran jungles as we encounter corrupt military personnel, native indigenous tribes, treachery and flesh eating piranhas.

The plot is very interesting but a little far-fetched at times, but the characters are very well developed and the pace of the book is so phrenetic that the holes in the plot don’t really get in the way because you don’t have time to think about it. While the author has written numerous series of books, I wanted to see what a standalone novel would be like, and Preston really does not disappoint. It does not take long to read this book and in Marcus Aurelius Hauser we come across one of the best evil characters in recent memory. This book will take no more than two to three days to finish and when completed you come to realize that Preston is definitely one of the leaders in the action/adventure genre.

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