British novel explores Mayan mystery


   Readers used to the swift pace of American historical thrillers, such as “The Da Vinci Code,” might have difficulty adjusting to “The Crystal Skull.” The book explores the same theme as a similarly named movie and companion book, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” but British author Manda Scott takes a slower approach in revealing the mysteries in her novel.
    British scholar Kit O’Connor and astronomer Stella Cody search through a cave for a blue Mayan crystal skull with secret powers, hidden 450 years earlier by physician-academic Cedric Owen. The skull is one of 13 that must be in alignment by Dec. 21, 2012, or else the world will end. The early atmosphere of the book is claustrophobic as the two crawl through caves, an adventure that nearly kills O’Connor and leaves him disabled. Scott deals with the couple’s subsequent marital problems and flight from unknown pursuers with British understatement. It is hard to identify with either of them until the book’s dramatic conclusion.
      Scott’s book rises to the occasion in flashbacks to Owen’s adventures in England and New Spain, where he encounters Mayan mysteries and becomes the keeper of the skull. He meets Spanish sea captain and adventurer Fernandez Alberto Garcia de Aguilar, who becomes his faithful companion and the most interesting character in the book.
    Make no mistake, Scott can write and her scholarship is impressive. She provides an intense ending that makes this book a rewarding read.
    Scott, a veterinarian, is the author of Edgar nominee “No Good Deed” and a quartet of books on the life of Celtic queen Boudica.