Reviewed by Andy Martin (Ethiopia 1965–68)
The Girl in the Glyphs was a surprisingly enjoyable book.
I say surprisingly because I chose to review the book from a list of available titles, each of which had a short paragraph synopsis. I believe the synopsis for this book said it was a romantic adventure story. John Coyne, who saw a proof copy of the book said it was “a splendid tale of love and intrigue in a dangerous country . . ..” When the book arrived in the mail, I didn’t know what to think. I was definitely trying to judge it by its cover and that was a bit unfair. It’s 6″ x 9″ with cover art that harkens to Indiana Jones. The inside has one illustration, a map, and each chapter opening has its own glyph. These glyphs appear to be related to the content of the chapters they head. It occurred to me that it might be intended as a young adult novel.
As I began reading it, I immediately thought of the old Kathleen Turner, Michael Douglas movie, Romancing the Stone, which I loved by the way, not just the story and the characters, but the fast pace and editing as well. The Girl in the Glyphs, to my mind kind of channels these qualities, in a good way. In short, I really got into it and thoroughly enjoyed the ride. It is very fast paced and, if you’ll pardon the expression, action-packed. The chapters are very short and a lot of stuff happens in each one.
The story is complicated and there are a lot of characters. The main character from whose point of view we experience the whole adventure, is Jennifer McMullen, half Anglo-half Mayan, an archeologist and a hottie who is also a hopeless romantic with a set of cohones, who is smart, ambitious, brave and, at times, foolhardy as well as occasionally blinded by love or lust. When I got to the hot parts, I realized that the book was certainly not for a YA audience. There are also a host of other characters including Alan, the main love-interest and macho kind of guy, a bunch of really bad guys, and a host of supporting characters including family and friends and even a couple of ghosts.
The Girl in the Glyphs is not only a swash-buckling contemporary adventure in modern day Nicaragua, it presents insights into a part of the world I wouldn’t know much about unless I had actually lived in Central America. The social fabric of the region and the interplay of ancient history with modern politics makes for an educational as well as highly entertaining read. I strongly recommend The Girl in the Glyphs.
Reviewer Andy Martin is a former PCV — Ethiopia, with an MEd. in TESOL. He spent the first half of his career in front of a classroom teaching ESL and training ESL teachers. The second half was spent working for eight different ESL publishers, the last and longest being Cambridge University Press. He retired seven years ago and began publishing two language related blogs, Rolls off the Tongue, a cartoon idiom guessing game, and What’s So Funny? that explains jokes to people who don’t get them. Both are available on Facebook. His greatest accomplishment is being married to the same woman for forty-four years and having two phenomenal children. Other than that he pursues two other passions, Aikido, and singing doo-wop acappella. He intends to spend the rest of his years in New York City.