A father and son stumble into the secret world of the Santos Muertos, a crime cartel bent on global domination. The son must find his father and keep the secret of the Chocomal, the ancient Mayan code underlying the creation of matter in the universe, from falling into the wrong hands. A story of sacrifice and love set in a contemporary, dystopian America.
Following the death of his wife Mary the year previously, Al and his 15 year old son Ricky go on holiday to Guatamala, to do some bonding – their relationship has been strained since Ricky chose not to follow his father’s wishes in continuing with football, preferring to ski.
Part of the holiday is to reconnect with Mary’s memory, going to places she had loved, and finding out more about the Mayan history she was interested in. At the surf shop, Ricky picks up a Mayan artefact called the Chocomal, which leads them into contact with the underbelly of the American continent, with the story traversing from Guatamala northwards into Canada with a trail of death and loss following behind.
For the 15 year old Ricky, he has to track down his father once the latter gets kidnapped, and find the people who can get him to where he needs to be whilst having little to no money. This means he ends up running with thieves, druggies, hippies, hackers and whores.
Meanwhile, Al has been kidnapped and transported to Canada, in order to tempt Ricky, who holds the Chocomal, to break cover. Al is held initially in solitary confinement, and subjected to torture (both physical and psychological). He is broken by his treatment, not knowing when he is – and only sometimes where he is – from one day to the next. He finds out the plans to make use of the Chocomal, that will rip the known world apart. When reunited with Ricky they work together, with some of the others kidnapped by Santos Muertos to stop them.
The formatting of the book is good and easily to get through, despite the lack of quotation marks! I was a little concerned by the way the first chapter was written, in that whilst it is a different and interesting way of writing (the mind of the father as he is disintegrating whilst held captive) it would have been a difficult book to read if it had continued for more than a chapter. However, a brave and interesting start to a book.
During his travel north Ricky – a surfer dude with enough strength to stand up to his father’s bullying techniques over playing football – seems in no hurry to move north, and spends weeks with drunks and dopeheads in the belief they can help him at some time in the future. Ricky leaves many of his friends and acquaintances behind as soon as they lose their usefulness and with nary a look back or regret, even if that person dies.
Finally Ricky reaches Canada and his father, only for a reasonable showdown finale.