I got a package in the mail in early November, which included the book "The Lights of Mahonri Moriancumer" by Phyllis Gunderson. I whipped through it in mere hours, only to get an e-mail from my mother on the following morning, saying that these books were part of my Christmas box. Whoops. But I certainly don't regret opening my presents early, and especially not this one. I love mysteries and thrillers with non-traditional heroines and a good dose of humour, and this book has it all.
Archaeologist Matt (Mathilda) Howard comes across a Buddhist monk who tells her a fascinating tale about "lights that do not die." As a child in the monastery, he came across a room full of technological wonders, and one of the masters tells him it is an ancient repository, a place where the lights have been shining for thousands of years. The monk wants to find out more about these lights, having heard that such things were mentioned in the Epic of Gilgamesh (which includes the Babylonian version of Noah's Ark.) Matt is intrigued, even more so when she hears another legend about glowing stones while on a dig in China, and yet another legend about the same things while on a dig in Brazil.
Matt is an engaging character. She's sixty years old, overweight, and has never been married, but has an adopted daughter who, as a teenager, developed a secret language of facial contortions to signal Matt whenever she was unorthodox and embarrassing. It doesn't seem to bother Matt all that much. Neither does her weight, come to think of it. Matt knows her limits, but only regrets her extra pounds when she's in the jungle and can't carry her own pack. She's upbeat and can definitely poke fun at herself. I particularly liked it when she was thinking, "I have a voice inside that tells me when I've been stupid after the fact, but no voice to stop me before the deed is done. Someday I'll complain to my programmer."
This book is light reading in every sense of the word. The book is 176 pages long, including the epilogue, and it's very fast-paced. Even when Matt is simply sitting and thinking, there's no slowing down. The narrative starts with a story about lights, and it ends with another one, with plenty of other "illuminating" encounters in between. I enjoyed the adventures of Indiana Joan, and I'd recommend it for readers who don't want anything overly deep and ponderous to get in the way of sheer fun.