The Daily Bongo

The Moai Murders

I just finished reading the latest book by Lyn Hamilton called The Moai Murders. The books that Lyn Hamilton writes are all subtitled Archaeological Mysteries and feature Lara McClintoch who owns a antique store in Toronto. This book is the first that I have read in the series, but I understand that all the other books are set in exotic locations and somehow deal with an archaeological event. The Moai Murders is set on Easter Island, or as it is more commonly known, Rapa Nui (Great Rapa).

The setting for this book is quite interesting. Rapa Nui is the island that was made famous by Aku-Aku, the Secret of Easter Island by Thor Heyerdahl. Basically Heyerdahl proved by using a raft that he called Kon Tiki that people could have come from the east to populate the islands in the region such as Rapa Nui instead of from the west and other Polynesian Islands. This means that settlement could have come from South America. Rapa Nui also comes up in alot of scientific discussions because people use it as the example for civilization ruining the environment. The premise is that Rapa Nui used to have lush vegetation but because of overuse of the resources of the land it became a barren wasteland that should be a warning to us all that what we have on Earth now is limited. Supposedly, only a few hundred people landed on Rapa Nui in its early days, and because of the plentiful resources of fish, birds, and plants, the population expanded too quickly. Now all of this happened in the first century AD (700 AD) so I think it is interesting how current day suppositions are placed on the situation. When the island was discovered by the Dutch in 1722, the island was on the barren side but did have people living on it.

The other object of interest on the island are the Moai. These are the huge giantic stone statues that for the most part are monolithic meaning that they were carved out of a single stone. The statues look like huge head on a little neck, and the ones that are scattered around the coast look inward to the island as opposed to out to sea. Of course, there is controversy with the Moai as you can imagine. Anytime there a structure that seems to be difficult for an early civilization to have made (even though they obviously did make it), someone always questions how it could have been done. For example, some out there seem to think that the ancient Egyptians couldn't have possibly have constructed the Great Pyramid. Who did then? Space aliens is the usual answer. For the Moai, some have suggested a great culture in the Pacific that would have been the equivalent of Atlantis in the Atlantic Ocean. At the current time, it really isn't understood how or why the statues were carved. All we know for certain is that they are there.

Now on to the book itself. Lara McClintoch's best friend, Moira, who is married to Lara's ex-husband and business partner in the antique shop has had a serious illness and has decided that she is going to make a list of things that she doesn't want to put off anymore and a list of things that she doesn't want to do do anymore, like eating beets. On the list of things to not put off is a visit to Rapa Nui, or Easter Island. Moira wants Lara to join her, and makes arrangements with Clive, Lara's ex, for Lara to accompany her on the trip. So the two women, sans husband and boyfriend, go on the trip of their lives. Once on Rapa Nui, they join a "scientific" congress that is being held at their hotel that is going to present various lectures on topics dealing with the ancient history of Rapa Nui. Now most of the participants are not scientists, but a group of fanatics who follow Jasper Robinson's adventures as a current day explorer. There are alot of questions about the scientific validity of Jasper's work, and the conflict between the legitimate archaeologists and Jasper becomes more evident as the book progresses. Before you know, Lara stumbles over a dead body of one of the conference's participants. The police believe it is an accident, but when Jasper makes a huge announcement at the next day's meeting and then winds up dead himself, the police start a murder investigation. Before you know, Lara is involved with helping a suspect, figuring out what is going on at the conference and ultimately, whodunit.

I did enjoy the story. I have to admit that I didn't come close to figuring out who the culprit was, and found the various twists and turns that came up very believeable and entertaining. In fact, I enjoyed the book so much that I am looking forward to reading the series from the beginning. Lyn Hamilton does an excellent job of plotting a mystery while educating the reader about the archaeological topic at hand. The only thing that would have made the story better is if it didn't take so long for the first murder to happen. The first 80 or so pages of the book were spent in building up the characters, setting and history. At times it was abit slow moving, but after the murder, things took off at a fast pace. Again, I would recommend the book to others.

July 12, 2005