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Fallen Idols    by J. F. Freedman order for
Fallen Idols
by J. F. Freedman
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2003 (2003)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The novel opens on 30 years married archaeologists (the professors Gaine) winding up an excavation season at La Chimenea in Central America. Restless 60-ish Walt Gaines is the superstar, and his wife Jocelyn balances him as a 'woman whose mind and spirit were perpetually in harmony.' We see Walt have a brief sexual liaison with Diane, a last-minute addition to the team. Then, on the way out of the jungle, after a government escort has been withdrawn, the group is ambushed and robbed, and Jocelyn shot, seemingly accidentally.

Something certainly seems to be rotten at La Chimenea, but exactly what is it? We meet Walt and Jocelyn's three adult sons - Clancy, Tom and Will - and Clancy's fianc9e (soon to be wife) Callie. They are all very concerned about Walt, who resigned from his university post, sold the family home, headed to California, and has inexplicably distanced himself from his children (they have always been close). After a year has passed, they are less willing to give him space and are driven to understand what has changed him so radically.

These sons of archaeologists begin, slowly and painstakingly, their own dig through the layers of deception that obscure their father's current lifestyle and motivations. There are surprising insurance policies, a multi-million dollar home, a femme fatale, and rumors of stolen artefacts. Suspicions of their father's role become darker and darker as Clancy, Tom and Will learn more than they ever wanted to know through a trip into the rainforest and direct confrontation.

I enjoyed Fallen Idols for the mystery at its core, and especially for its depiction of a family's journey through grief and away from each other. The pace is slow and steady, rather like the dig itself, the characters engaging, and the detail of archaeology and Central America add to the interest of a compelling read.

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