The Adventures of Mat Rufs: BOOK ONE Mexican 'Jewel' by A. Liachenko is an adventure story, full of ancient and modern secrets. The story covers ancient healing and religious practices, and questions what role these might have in the modern world, and who might want to control these powers.
Backpacker and solo traveler Mat Rufs enjoys seeing new places and meeting new people, but this time, he may have gotten more than he expected. Mat was planning to poke around and eat some good food in Mexico, but ends up getting lost while exploring a beautiful cave, and stumbling into ancient and international secrets.
Meanwhile, a traditional Mayan healer feels called to those same mountains, and a little puppy goes looking for her owner. In the nearby city, tensions grow between the police and the powerful local cartel, all exacerbated by stories of the tourists that seem to disappear or encounter "accidents" in the region. And far away in Canada, Mat's sister begins to worry that she hasn't heard from her brother in quite a while...
There's a lovely fairy-tale feel to this adventure story, especially in the parts set in these beautiful but perilous caverns. It feels like a myth at times, too, because the stakes are high and the situations and dramatic, but our main characters are basically just trying to be good people. This makes it easy to connect to the characters, who are often shown trying to be kind to animals, be good to their family members, or protect their communities.
The Adventures of Mat Rufs: BOOK ONE Mexican 'Jewel' introduces ancient traditions and ancient healing. I liked how terrifying the stories of sacrifice were, without falling back on tropes about how the ancient people were just extra violent. It doesn't feel like a ghost story. Instead, there's a real respect for old customs and beliefs, with a value on traditional, whole-body healing in this novel.
There were some moments when certain characters seemed just a little too credulous. When questioned about what he's doing in the secret caves, and told his story about being a tourist is obviously a lie, Mat spins a yarn about being a secret agent with amnesia, which is accepted without a lot of pushback. Later, his sister Emily meets a man who claims to be a researcher, and needs her help to Wikipedia the location of his "research" and she helps him without question. Even a seasoned police officer falls for obvious misdirections. At first, I thought these were just moments when a character needs to be a bit gullible to advance the plot, but as the story went on, I realized this was the theme of the novel -- believing more than what we are told directly. Just as these characters need to learn to think carefully and consider what they're being told, the reader is also invited to question what we're told.
Overall, The Adventures of Mat Rufs: BOOK ONE Mexican 'Jewel' is an adventure story of everyday people uncovering dramatic secrets.