When 12-year-old Samantha Sutton gets to join her archaeologist uncle on an actual dig in Peru, she learns the secret behind the local tradition of a madman in Chavín de Huántar, but not before some terrifying moments both above and below ground.
Longing to be an archaeologist herself, Samantha is thrilled when her Uncle Jay invites her to spend the summer working with him, even though her irritating older brother Evan has to come along. Her special job of exploring narrow passageways in the 3,000-year-old site is real scientific work, though it's sometimes frightening. But when there really does appear to be an intruder in the maze of galleries, and finds go missing, the tension among the scientific staff and in the community becomes almost unbearable. Then her video-game–playing brother disappears. These middle-school–age characters are believable and the adults convincingly complex. The first-time author, an archaeologist himself, has included plenty of specific details about fieldwork and about the Chavín area, bringing out some of the conflicts inherent in the science. But middle-grade readers will be focused on the mystery, pulled on by gripping suspense. Claustrophobics may want to skip scenes where Samantha wriggles through pitch-black tunnels and navigates remembered passages without a light.
Hardy readers will be eager to explore another lost world in the promised sequel. (Mystery. 9-13)