Friday, 30 December 2011

"The Death Relic," by Chris Kuzneski

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Stuff and Nonsense by Amy Cockram is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

Last year I read a series of books by Chris Kuzneski, all focusing on the exploits of his heroes Payne and Jones, and I wrote about them here.  I thought that the series was good, rollicking fun, so I was pleased to hear that he had written a new book in the series called "The Death Relic."

In his new novel, Kuzneski's ex special forces heroes are called by Maria Pelati - a character who also appeared in the earlier novel, "The Sign of the Cross," and Jones' now ex-girlfriend - because she is in danger.  Maria has gone to Mexico in answer to a job offer from renowned fellow archaeologist Terrence Hamilton, who then disappears and she finds that her hotel room has been ransacked.  The pair leave snowy Pittsburgh - Jones hates the cold - to answer her distress call, but unresolved feelings make the reunion a fractious and prickly one.  A parallel plot about the kidnap and ransom of the children of a powerful Mexican criminal converges on the central mystery of Hamilton's disappearance, leading them to mysterious and exotic Mexican locations.

This was a strong entry in a series that continues to entertain, and to hold my attention.  I know very little about Mayan civilisation - I haven't even seen the Mel Gibson film "Apocalypto" - so the exotic locations and historical background were relatively fresh and new to me.  Payne and Jones are sparky and funny, as usual, and Maria's obstreporousness adds an interesting dimension to the dynamic.  Some extra warmth and comic relief was added by the semi-regular figure of the ebullient Petr Ulster, who has become possibly my favourite character of the series: Petr seems to revel in the thrill of joining Payne and Jones on their adventures, despite his rotund figure and love of material comfort making him better suited for book-study than fieldwork. 

I think I favour the character of Petr Ulster because I, too, have a (slightly) portly figure that makes me better suited to reading than action: with that in mind I will probably continue to join Payne and Jones on their next adventure while remaining in the safety of my own chair (or, my favourite reading location, bed) with a cup of coffee.


  1. Thanks for the review. I like some of Kuzneski's books, but others, especially "The Prophecy" are downright appalling. (My reviews at

    Didnt know that a new book was out. It's payne and jones time again!

  2. Thanks, Kislay.

    I will pop over to your blog in a minute to have a look at your reviews. I seem to remember looking forward to it because the Nostradamus angle sounded interesting, but not finding it one of his best books.

    I'll look out for your review of this one....!

  3. Finally finished reading "The Death Relic". Quite unusual for a Payne and Jones novel - not much bloodletting, not many convoluted codes. Just an immensely enjoyable lesson in ancient history with an interesting interpretation at the end.

    Difficult to rate it since it is quite out of character with the other books of the series. Liked it though.

    Review at -

    Any other similar books/series you can recommend?