The Map Thief
Review: Heather Terrell crafts an intriguing tale of the fascinating journey of a historic map in her second suspense thriller featuring fine art negotiator Mara Coyne in The Map Thief.
Richard Tobias, a wealthy political insider, is funding an archaeological dig in China which discovers a map of the world that pre-dates the voyages of European explorers. The map promptly disappears, presumably stolen. Tobias hires Mara to find it and return it to him. She agrees but stipulates that she'll only return it to its rightful owner. Meeting up with the archaeologist who found the map in China, Ben Coleman, together they embark on a quest that ultimately leads them to Portugal where they locate a secret society whose leaders may know more about the map than they are willing to admit.
There are three narratives presented in The Map Thief: one from the early 15th century featuring Chinese cartographer Ma Zhi, one from the late 15th century featuring Portuguese navigator Antonio Coehlo, and one from the present day with Mara and Ben. The first two narratives, somewhat unexpectedly written in the present tense but to great effect, are elegantly symmetrical in telling the tales of their respective characters. Their stories are compelling, at times riveting, richly detailed, and fill the reader with the same sense of wonder and awe the characters must have felt during their journeys. They come to life in a way fictional characters rarely do. When both narratives end, there is a real sense of sorrow and loss.
The final narrative, the present day one, isn't nearly as exciting though there are several inventive scenes and suspenseful passages. And the brilliant conception of The Map Thief is marred only by the seriously flawed foundation upon which Mara is asked to do her search. The disappointment comes towards the end. Without giving away too much, there's a "But if … then why ..." situation that seems to make Mara and Ben's entire adventure rather pointless. Or maybe the point was to make a politician appear evil and manipulative. If so, that's hardly innovative and ultimately doesn't serve the story very well. After creating such an astonishingly original story, it's incredibly disappointing the author didn't develop a more adroit manner of wrapping it up, instead relying on tired clichés. Still, The Map Thief is a remarkable story and, despite its poorly conceived conclusion, is highly recommended.
Acknowledgment: Random House provided a copy of The Map Thief for this review.
Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in The Map Thief: New York City, Hong Kong, China, Lisbon, Portugal
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The Map Thief by Heather Terrell — A Mara Coyne Mystery
Publication Date: July 2008
List Price: $25.00