When the body of Hunter Gearhardt washes up on the banks of a seasonal river outside of Pomacochas, Peru, with only samples of vegetation, a handful of feathers, two black- and gray-streaked rocks, and a golden headdress of indeterminate origin in his possession, his grieving father launches an expedition to determine how his son died. The party uses these clues to divine Hunter’s route into the jungle, where they find a surviving offshoot of a primitive tribe, long thought to be extinct, and something far more sinister, something that’s been able to avoid discovery for eons for one simple reason: No one leaves the rainforest alive.
Self-published works can be hazardous territory for readers. Most are simply awful, authored by people who have little idea how to write a coherent sentence, let alone an entire novel. But there are a few diamonds among the mile-high mounds of coal. Burial Ground is one of them.
Burial Ground has been favorably compared to Michael Crichton’s works in both tone and theme. The fact is the novel is pretty much a rewrite of Crichton’s Congo, except it is set in South America instead of Africa and stars monsters that would be right at home in Jurassic Park. Businessman Leo Gearhardt launches an expedition to a remote corner of Peru to find out who — or possibly what — killed his son, a geologist who was on the cusp of discovering a major gold ore deposit. One of the few clues are some strange feathers that were found on his son’s body — feathers that don’t match those of any known bird. Gearhardt assembles a small team of scientists and a documentary crew to accommodate him on the expedition, but what they find only adds to the mystery: Why do the natives fortify their village with thick walls? What is the link between the ancient ruins the team discovers and legends about feathered serpents? And what’s up with those creepy butterflies?
I’m being intentionally vague because much of fun of the novel is unraveling the mystery that the author slowly builds. And I do mean slowly given that most of the action takes place in the final few chapters of Burial Ground. Readers with patience will be rewarded with an adventure that’s not particularly memorable but still entertaining, like stumbling upon a B-movie that turns out better than you expected. Granted, the plot may lack originality, and chances are most readers of this blog will figure out what monsters are lurking in the Peruvian rainforest long before they make their first appearance. Still, the author knows how to spin a good yarn that keeps you wanting to know what happens next. Give it a try if you miss Crichton.
The author has self-published several novels, most of them thrillers. His website is author.michaelmcbride.net