In this debut sci-fi thriller, a team of scientists encounters a deadly predator in the Amazon jungle.
A plane carrying a prominent Brazilian politician and his family crashes into the jungle, and the helicopter sent to find them inadvertently discovers what appears to be some kind of cavern, inexplicably massive. Doc Morrison, a world-renowned geologist and expert in speleology—the study of caverns—is called in to investigate the anomaly. He immediately heads to Brazil with his two assistants—Libby Grayson and Peter Cassidy—and is met by fellow scientist Dr. Maria Vasquez and a military unit assigned to escort them all. The cavern they discover is not only colossal—it’s estimated to be 340 million cubic meters—but also filled with the skeletal remains of indigenous animals, indicating it’s inhabited by some unknown predator. The team quickly discovers that the mysterious killer is a vicious creature none can identify, and races through the jungle in search of safety. Meanwhile, there is reason to believe Diego Esteban—the missing politician—might still be alive. Brazil’s president (and Esteban’s close friend) pressures the military to find him. Against the backdrop of the drama are two amorous subplots—the steamy relationship between Peter and Libby, and the simmering attraction between Morrison and Maria, who know each other from a previous expedition. Burkett has composed a taut thriller: brief but brimming with action and romantic possibility. In addition, he memorably describes the creature in horrid detail. But the author gives so much away so soon—jumping back and forth in narrative time—that any real suspense is unfortunately waylaid. Furthermore, the writing can be theatrically overwrought, especially the dialogue, which often seems ripped from the pages of a Harlequin novel: “ ‘I will Libby. I promise, I’ll come back to you. I love you! I’m going to turn off the radio now. I can’t take any chances. I love you!’ Libby heard the radio go silent. She hung her head and cried, tears dripping onto her lap.” Burkett conjures a chilling villain, but the assemblage of protagonists is less seductive.
A fleet, action-packed tale with a formidable creature.