If you had told me to sit down and read a book that was a few parts Mexican drug cartel, one part archaeological mystery, one part international politics, with a couple dashes of romance and suspense to top it off, I would have looked at you like you were crazy. Needless to say, those types of books don’t often fall into my lap. Not because I’m not interested, but because I just never seem to give myself the chance to be interested.
M.C. Tuggle‘s novella, “Aztec Midnight“ gave me just that chance. I was a little bit hesitant, but not too much because I’ve learned by now that a book is so much more than the brief, paraphrased synopsis used to describe it. I was looking forward to finding out what exactly was in between the covers of this small, pliable book.
As usual, the first thing I observed was the cover. This has become something of a habit of mine; one I can’t seem to break, nor do I particularly want to. Aztec Midnight’s cover is simple, but darkly mysterious. There is only one red image — one that seemed almost indistinguishable at first, but upon second or third glance I saw that it was a knife. At the very bottom of it, two small drops are formed, as if liquid. Since it is red in color, the first thing that came to my mind was obviously blood. Believe it or not, I was intrigued.
The novella follows Dr. Jon Barrett, an American archaeologist who was asked to come down to Mexico and retrieve an ancient, valuable (Aztec) weapon before the drug cartels get to it first. I found myself thinking, “well, this is fun to read” while reading, often, and, given the subject matter, that is a feat. Not many people would view a book that combines history, violence, criminals, and mystery as “fun,” but it truly was. Each page was like another step on an exciting journey, and, as a reader, I really did not have any idea where the story would turn next.
I also particularly enjoyed how the author throws in little romantic parts between the narrator and his wife. For example, when Jon returns home from a tiresome excursion, he walks in on his wife relaxing on the couch, and he takes a moment to simply admire the way she looks. He said it even temporarily alleviated him from the stressful thoughts and events that made up his day. This was a very nice touch, in my opinion. It reminds the readers that although there is a great deal taking place, and whole lot of drama, Dr. Barrett’s number one priority at the end of the day (literally and figuratively) is his wife and his love for her. This knowledge of his character plays an important role when, later, a few of his most prized possessions are put in jeopardy.
This novella is short, but filled to the brim with action and intrigue. Tuggle blends edge-of-your-seat scenarios with realistic and genuine dialogue. The characters are authentic and believable, while the story is unique and undoubtedly fascinating. No matter what your usual genre of books may be, “Aztec Midnight” is worth checking out.
Twisted Talk: Do you ever read novellas? What’s your favorite genre to read? Discuss below!