My latest read was this tasty little morsel by twin sisters, Melissa Lason and Michelle Garza, who brand themselves as the Sisters of Slaughter. My understanding is that they have been writing since they were little girls and have always written side by side, as is the case with this, their debut novel; Mayan Blue.
The story is a well constructed, fast paced rollercoaster of thrills, spills and contemporary twists, based upon ancient Mayan mythology.
The story starts with a group of friends - Wes, Tyler, Dennis, Alissa and Kelly on a camping expedition to meet up with slightly obsessed Doctor Lipton. A man, who having survived cancer, has made it his life's ambition to seek proof that ancient Mayan's had an original settlement in Georgia.
Armed only with a map, and a suspicion that the proof of the settlement is hidden somewhere inside Blood Mountain, Lipton sets off on his expedition, alone. Very quickly, things begin to transcend that he is going to get a whole lot more than he was bargaining for.
The rest of the group, each with their own individual motives, pick up the trail from where Lipton left off. Armed with nothing but a tatty tent, liquor and a bag of weed, they are about to embark on an excursion unlike anything else they have ever experienced.
I'm leaving it there for the description, as any more would involve spoliers.
The first thing that strikes you about the story is that it wastes no time before the foot gets stamped onto the accelerator. Things happen very quickly. Lason and Garza make a definitive point of this, almost to the point where they're unapologetic; this is the way it's going to be and that's that. Some may argue that a little more development may be required for a few of the characters, but why? We all know the proverbial is going to hit the fan so let's not mess about.
As the story begins to unfold, you may be forgiven for thinking that its a version of the Goonie's that took a darker path, a much darker path. In a sense, I suppose it may be. Saying that, the Goonies didn't have to contend with the entity of Ah-Puch, lord of death, who holds the ability to manipulate and control walking, rotting corpses, shapeshifting, bloodthirsty demons and vampiric vines.
I jest not.
The story moves along at a steady pace until it hits its climax, where an ultimate decision is to be made in the face of adversity, for individual vengeance. It's worked extremely well.
The amount of research involved to pull this off must have been staggering. All of the references are either very well salvaged, or the product of a very vivid imagination. Either way, it's very impressive and is the real catalyst that adhere's the story together to work so well. The intensity of the descriptions and authenticity of the cast, really make for a colourful, and at times, bloodsoaked tale. There is no denying that these two sisters are talented writers.
There are many elements of this story that veer away from what I would class as more 'traditional' horror. At times, the mythology naturally steers it into the realms of fantasy, there are many horrific elements, but at times I felt it lacking just enough to satisfy the depraved urges of some hardened fans.
Working with another writer can be difficult. Sometimes, it's difficult to get both parties to follow the same natural course. In the case of Lason and Garza, this isn't so; it works seamlessly. The story isn't linear, it's chopped up and zigzag's back into itself, but the flow is perfectly driven and pretty much faultless. A true testament to the power of their partnership.
For me, a great first novel from a couple of writers with the ability and outlook to smash it. I will keep a close eye on this pair, they have a great future.
My rating 4/5