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THE SERPENT'S DAUGHTER
By Suzanne Arruda
Obsidian, 2008 ($14.00)
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
Jade del Cameron is part Amelia Peabody, part Indiana Jones, a dash of Phrynne Fisher, and a bit of something exotic and mysterious. Her job as a writer for a travel magazine takes her to some interesting and dangerous places, and this adventure takes place in Morocco. She and her mother Inez, a lady with an impeccable Spanish pedigree, meet in Tangier, both hoping to mend some fences and grow closer. Jade's father is an American rancher, and her interests growing up in territorial New Mexico were much more akin to her father's. She loved riding, and camping under the stars, and she knew how to take care of herself, using guns, knives, or swift kicks with a heavy boot. Her mother wants her to be a lady, and to marry some suitable gentleman. There happen to be a couple of such men in the hotel where they're staying, but Jade is not impressed.
Jade met the man she wanted while she was driving ambulances in the Great War, a daring pilot named David Worthy. David died in the war, and his mother, Olivia Lilith Worthy, seemed to blame Jade for his death. Lilith is a thoroughly unpleasant woman who arranged her own husband's death, and Jade is hoping never to cross paths with her again. Jade has a new beau now, Sam, another pilot, whose missing leg hasn't slowed him down at all.
At breakfast one morning, Jade behaves rudely to some of the American and English travelers, and Inez is not at all happy about that. When Mom is kidnapped, though, Jade sets off on a perilous journey across the desert to rescue her. A Berber man offers to help her, and even though she isn't sure what his true agenda is, she accepts the offer. They find Inez, and Jade tells him to take her to the French church while she tends to some business. When she reunites with him, he tells her Inez is in another place, where she is safe. He promises to lead her there if she will do something for his people, and she has no choice but to agree. He takes her high into the Atlas Mountains to his village, and sure enough, Mom is there, and not too happy with the situation. They are treated kindly by the women, and receive some startling information about their ancestry. Jade, they say, is the chosen one to retrieve a sacred amulet stolen from the religious leader of the tribe. She has no idea how to achieve that goal, but she'd made a promise and she would attempt to keep it.
There are more kidnappings, more escapes, some treachery by people she trusted and great bravery by people she hadn't expected it from. The story is fascinating, and the author manages to recreate 1920's Morocco in vivid detail. She imparts a great deal of information about the Berber people by showing, not telling. This is the third in the Jade del Cameron series, and the first I've read. The fifth book, The Treasure of the Golden Cheetah, is due in September, 2009. I will definitely read this and the earlier books.
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