Review: THE MAYA CODEX by Adrian d’Hage

THE MAYA CODEX opens in Vienna in 1937. With Hitler about to take control of his native Austria, Jewish University Professor Levi Weizman reluctantly agrees to accompany a Nazi expedition to the Guatemalan jungle. The Nazis are looking for proof of the superiority of their Aryan heritage, while Weizman is looking for a document believed to have been written by the Mayans many centuries ago. When he is warned not to trust the Nazi leader of the expedition Weizman makes his own way back to Austria to collect his family and try to escape the Nazis.

When the book jumps forward to the present day Levi Weizman’s granddaughter Aleta is following in the family tradition of archaeology. She too is searching for the fabled Mayan codex, purported to be a warning about a catastrophe that will befall the world in 2012. But she has made some powerful enemies in the CIA and the Catholic Church. CIA Agent Curtis O’Connor is sent to kill her but decides instead to join her search for the codex

This is a plot-driven thriller that follows a broadly predictable story arc about the search for a mysterious object from an ancient culture. If that’s all there was I imagine I wouldn’t have bothered to finish it, however there is enough research, detail and interesting sidetracks to make it a thoroughly enjoyable romp of a tale. It doesn’t hurt that there is an overall theme looking at the corrupting influence of knowledge and power on a collection of unlikable individuals. And perhaps I was reading a little too much into the story, showing my own prejudices if you like, but the linking by association of the atrocities committed by the Nazis and those by regimes in more recent times makes for sobering thought. d’Hage, who was a Brigadier in the Australian Army until 2000 and is in the process of completing a PhD in American foreign policy, has enough real-world knowledge of modern geopolitics to make the more far-fetched and unsavoury elements of the novel plausible enough to be scary rather than laughable.

As is fairly standard for a thriller the characters here are not particularly engaging, with most of them being ultra evil or a little too good to be true. The good guys are likable enough, though the bad guys are a bit too stereotypical for me (even as a rather angrily lapsed Catholic I am bored with the depiction of priests as either saints or paedophiles and nothing much in between). For the most part though the characters are just more set pieces in moving along the complex, fast plot.

Overall THE MAYA CODEX is an intelligent thriller that presents a plausible (if far-fetched) doomsday scenario that incorporates a rather chilling amount of credible details about our recent and not-so recent history. If high-speed romps are your thing I can recommend this one.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars
Publisher: Penguin, Australia [2010]
ISBN: 9780143205548
Length: 467 pages
Format: Paperback
Source:I bought it

Currently reading THE MAYA CODEX

I first came across Adrian d’Hage’s name more than a year ago when he appeared on a national public radio show that discusses religion, politics and hoochies. The show is hosted by a septuagenarian Catholic priest and a 30-something TV documentary maker and to say it has an eclectic mix of guests is something of an understatement. d’Hage was talking about his newest book, a conspiracy thriller involving an ancient religion, Nazis and the possible end of the world. It sounded like my cup of tea but when I learned it is written by someone who went almost as high as you can get in the Australian military (as a Brigadier he headed the counter-terrorism planning for the Sydney Olympics in 2000) and is also a qualified wine chemist and ski instructor I figured it for a must read. It’s taken me 7 months to move the book from my wishlist to currently reading but such are the vagaries of a large TBR pile.

Here’s the publisher’s blurb

Deep in the Guatemalan jungle lies the Maya Codex, an ancient document containing a terrible warning for civilisation. Archaeologist Dr Aleta Weizman and CIA agent Curtis O’Connor are desperately searching for the codex, but powerful forces in Washington and Rome will do anything to stop them.

Both Weizman and O’Connor know that the earth will align with a massive black hole at the centre of the galaxy on the winter solstice, December 2012 – just as the Mayans predicted. Might a catastrophic pole shift be on the way?

From the corridors of power in Nazi Germany to modern-day Washington, from the secret archives of the Vatican to the Temple of the Lost World pyramid in the jungles of Central America, The Maya Codex takes us on a heart-stopping journey to find the codex before it’s too late.

Having been very disappointed by the last thriller I read (John le Carre’s OUR KIND OF TRAITOR) I was a bit skeptical about starting another one (am I over them?) but so far this one has hooked me in. At least it’s got a ripping start (including Nazis vs the Vatican) and seems to be an intelligent bit of escapism.

For the pedants (like me) I know Adrian’s surname should have an accent over its ‘e’ but I can’t for the life of me work out how to do that using Blogger.