Let's Talk Books

#Fantastical Fridays no.1

For this, my first #Fantastical Friday, I want to share three books that cross genres due to one or more ‘fantastical’ element. James Rollins has written any number of books that while on the surface might be classed as a thriller or an adventure but, when you look deeper, also included fantastical elements. So let’s start there:

AMAZONIA — James Rollins

The Backcover Blurb:
The Rand scientific expedition entered the lush wilderness of the Amazon and never returned. Years later, one of its members has stumbled out of the world’s most inhospitable rainforest: a former Special Forces soldier—scarred, mutilated, terrified, and mere hours from death—who went in with one arm missingand came out with both intact.

Unable to comprehend this inexplicable event, the government sends Nathan Rand into this impenetrable secret world of undreamed—of perils to follow the trail of his vanished father…toward mysteries that must be solved at any cost. But the nightmare that is awaiting Nate and his team of scientists and seasoned U.S. Army Rangers dwarfs any danger they anticipated…an ancient, unspoken terror—a power beyond human imagining-that can forever alter the world beyond the dark, lethal confines of the Amazon rainforest for better… and for worse.

You cannot get any more ‘out there’ than with a Rollins plot, which usually dumps a group of people into an already difficult situation, and then? He stretches credibility and disbelief to the point you almost think, ‘what the hell is going on?’ But then, he manages to give it all a sheen of possibility because, as in this case, we’re in the middle of the Amazon jungle and who knows what still lies in its deep, dark depths? And it’s that ‘what if’ that plays wonderfully into the story he weaves, because, we really don’t know.

THE ANCIENT CURSE — Valerio Massimo Manfredi

The Backcover Blurb:
In the darkest hours of the night at the Museum of Volterra, young archaeologist Fabrizio Castellani is immersed in his work. He has discovered that the famous Etruscan statue known as “the shade of twilight” contains a mysterious object, seemingly enclosed within the sculpture itself. He is suddenly interrupted by a phone call from an icy female voice, warning him to abandon his research at once. A series of gruesome killings follow. The victims, who have all been involved in the desecration of an unexplored tomb, seem to be have been torn to pieces by a beast of unimaginable size. Meanwhile, as Fabrizio excavates the Etruscan tomb he discovers something extraordinary, and chilling. Will Fabrizio manage to unravel these secrets without being sucked into the spiral of violence himself?

Here again, we have a group of people dealing with what is ostensibly a ‘supernatural’ element, and a mystery stemming from an ancient curse — but, here’s the rub, is the monster in question real, or is someone very cleverly playing on people’s fears to commit murder? This is a fun, fast read with plenty of historical detail thrown in for good measure, shoring up something of a cheesy plot but that might be due to the translation rather than anything to do with Manfredi’s style of writing.


The Backcover Blurb:
In beautiful, crumbling Old Havana, Canadian detective Mike Ellis hopes the sun and sand will help save his troubled marriage. He doesn’t yet know that it’s dead in the water—much like the little Cuban boy last seen begging the Canadian couple for a few pesos on the world famous Malecón. For Inspector Ricardo Ramírez, head of the Major Crimes Unit of the Cuban National Revolutionary Police, finding his prime suspect isn’t a problem—Cuban law is. He has only seventy-two hours to secure an indictment and prevent a vicious killer from leaving the island. But Ramírez also has his own troubles to worry about. He’s dying of the same dementia that killed his grandmother, an incurable disease that makes him see the ghosts of victims of unsolved murders. As he races against time, the dead haunt his every step …

Here we go again, a novel that is essentially crime fiction but with an overlying supernatural element that takes it from what could be just a mundane read to something a little spooky. We follow along with the good Inspector Ramírez, as he tried to solve a murder while fending off critical and, at times, witty banter from dead by-standers. This makes for a very whimsical read and adds a certain ‘other-worldly’ element to Ramírez’s and, of course, our world. We can sympathise with him, and yet, also indulge in a laugh to at some of the wise-cracks at his expense. If you want something completely different, why not give this series a try.


  1. That second novel, The Ancient Curse, almost sounds like a bit of a Scooby Doo plot, where the pull the mask off at the end and behind is the only person who made an appearance who is not part of the gang!

    • Alexandra says

      Exactly! It’s a silly, fun, and fast read, but without too many surprises. And maybe a lot of it has to do with the translation between Italian and English. But still, the history and archaeology were spot on and interesting and made up for some of the slack!

  2. I love that description of The Ancient Curse – A Scooby Doo plot! Very apt. But it does sound like fun, even if it doesn’t exactly reflect reality, let’s just say. I do like it when books cross genres like this, Alex, and I’m glad you’re spotlighting them. There’s endless fascination out there, especially if you’re willing to suspend disbelief about some things.

    • Alexandra says

      I know, I had to laugh when I saw what GTL wrote. Quite apt in this case. But as long as there’s a certain line that’s not crossed, these plots can still be enjoyable. As I said, the archaeology and history is sound, and those parts fascinating.

      The funny thing is, just how many of this type of book there is out there, Margot. I’m looking forward to scouring my shelves for more examples to share. And, if nothing else, it will offer maybe a different kind of read, to some who might not have thought to read a James Rollins book before. 😉

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