American tourists on a Veracruz biking trip find themselves in the middle of a savage war between the Mexican militia and local contraband-running rebels in the Silberbergs’ debut novel.
Dr. Brad Sommers believes that a bicycle tour through Mexican jungles is just the thing to take his mind off a pending lawsuit. He’s facing civil action because he couldn’t save a senator’s injured daughter. Joining him are cancer survivor and divorcée Celia Dane; Kevin Black, who’s entangled in his own legal battle over his family business; and hapless, boozing Robbie Roberts. Guide Ramon Garcia and his younger sister, Elena, lead them on a pleasant excursion that takes a nasty detour when they stumble upon the bloody aftermath of a gunfight, including plenty of leftover drugs, guns, and gold coins. The group opts to take some of the latter, and soon it’s clear that their greed could be their downfall. The authors open the story by quickly establishing the protagonists and their back stories. Although the novel wisely introduces its villains early on—including black marketeer Enrique Salerno, who doesn’t mind killing (and is really good at it)—they take their time developing Brad and the rest. It’s a slow but particularly effective method, easing readers into the tour right along with the characters. It also makes it more convincing when avarice precipitates the need for a kidnapping—and even more shocking when someone later dies. The Silberbergs’ well-developed characters remain credible even in severe circumstances; Brad, for example, could potentially use his medical knowledge to render an armed man unconscious, but it’s a different story when he’s actually facing the man. The story races through invigorating twists, including double crosses among both the good and bad guys, an explosion or two, and the use of a bike as a weapon (of sorts). However, the climax, though exciting, doesn’t quite measure up to the buildup of the brisk final act. The coda thoroughly wraps up the story, including all the subplots of the people still alive.
A curvy thriller with a few unexpected turns.