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THE MAP THIEF


By Heather Terrell

Ballantine Books, 2008 ($25.00)
ISBN-10: 0345494687
ISBN-13: 978-0-345-49468-9

Reviewed by Cherie Jung

If you've spent any time recently watching the Discovery or History channels on cable TV, it will come as no surprise that the ancient Chinese invented more than gun powder. They are now being credited with inventing (or at least designing) a steam engine, a steam propelled vehicle (toy size), and a multiple shot crossbow, to name just a few items that were not associated with China when I was in school.

THE MAP THIEF introduces the reader to Admiral Zheng He of the Ming Dynasty, in the year 1421 (Beijing, China) and his cartographer and navigator Ma Zhi, who was the first person to chart the world. Unfortunately, the map disappeared when the journey ended. In 1496, Lisbon, Portugal, the map reappeared when legendary explorer, Vasco de Gama set out to find a sea route to India. The on board navigator, Antonio Coelho had a secret map that showed the way.

Now in present day, the map has once again been found but is currently missing. It was stolen from an archaeological site. Mara Coyne has been hired to recover it.

Readers who prefer their tales to be linear, without flashbacks or moving between the past and the present, may find THE MAP THIEF a bit uncomfortable, reading-wise, until they get through a few chapters. I didn't find the switching back and forth between the three different time periods annoying but I did find the present day characters and setting to be less interesting than ancient China and ancient Portugal.

Still, the author has done a fairly good job of combining suspense with historical elements. Readers who enjoyed THE DA VINCI CODE may find they like THE MAP THIEF.

The author's debut novel, THE CHRYSALIS (now available in paperback) also featured Mara Coyne.

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