Please give a Killer Welcome to the fantabulous Maureen A. Miller. Take it away, Maureen!
You can always count on two things from me−romance and suspense. I take a little turn with my latest romantic adventure, JUNGLE OF DECEIT. Mayan artifacts? Military compounds? Underground temples? Who stole Maureen and replaced her with Indiana Jones?
Inspiration is always an interesting topic. A few years after 9/11, I read an article that was not even a blip on the news radar−a few modest paragraphs that drew very little attention.
"After being unearthed by grave-robbers in Guatemala, sold by black marketers and shipped in suitcases through Miami, confiscated by Customs and stored in a vault that survived the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, two dozen pre-Colombian artifacts are finally headed home."
I thought that the historical path of these artifacts could make for a great novel. The real story began in 1998 as U.S. Customs agents at Miami International Airport searched the suitcases of two New York residents flying home from Guatemala City. In the suitcases they found the artifacts. The couple insisted they had bought them at an open Indian marketplace and the pieces were not valuable. To support their testimony, several innocent pieces were thrown in which are believed to have acted as decoys.
An authenticating process revealed that many of the pieces were pre-Columbian and the couple lacked the documentation required to remove historically significant items from Guatemala. The artifacts were confiscated and eventually made their way to New York City where they were stored in the heavy vault at Custom House, 6 World Trade Center, in the World Trade Center complex.
That is where they were on Sept. 11, 2001.
When the vault was unearthed by crews sifting through the rubble, the artifacts and other items were all intact. The legal battle against the man and woman smuggling in the artifacts collapsed as well, and several years later the artifacts were finally returned to the Guatemalan government.
This tale was stuck in my head while I was working on other books, but a story began to form. JUNGLE OF DECEIT was born. It bears no reference or similarity to the tale above, but sometimes as a writer, inspiration need only strike the tiniest spark and we’re off and running with fresh ideas.
JUNGLE OF DECEIT
Mitch Hasslet, a war photojournalist relegated to a desk job, is the sole witness to a heist of Mayan artifacts. Recruited by the enigmatic director of the Museum of Art and Antiquities, Mitch is sent to Guatemala, the last location the shipment was tracked to. Acting as the museum staff photographer, Mitch joins a group of archaeologists. His goal is to locate the artifacts as swiftly as possible so that he can collect his compensation and get the hell out of the jungle.
Alexandra Langley is about to run out of funds. She has yet to discover the lost Mayan civilization she knows lurks in the rainforest. To achieve her grant, she will accept the museum’s latest nuisance, Mitch Hasslet, and any other obstacle that is sent her way.
Unsuccessful and desperate, Alex has decided to move the group to a portion of the jungle referred to as, “No Man’s Land”− a sector where archaeological teams have ventured but never returned.
As Mitch and Alex discover romance, will their bond protect them in a jungle filled with deceit?