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River of the Damned

River of the Damned by Aiden James
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Nick Caine and Ishi Cuyamel return to the United States with heavy hearts following a series of unexpected surprises in Scotland… surprises that have left them without Marie Da Vinci while placing the pair in the coerced employment of a secretive United States government agency. But rather than face the threat of extended jail time for their role in looting precious artifacts from throughout the world, Nick and Ishi agree to give up their livelihoods as 'creative archaeologists'. If only working for 'Project Golden Eye' was that simple, since part of their recruitment means handling assignments that entail much more than simply baiting and capturing antiquities thieves like themselves...

Nick and Ishi's first assignment should be one that plays to their strengths and familiarity, since it involves yet another lost 'city of gold'. However, since this particular ancient metropolis lies somewhere deep in the Amazon jungles of Ecuador, it does not carry the renowned status of most other legendary sites in South America. It is this rare status that attracted Dr. Nathaniel Pierce—a noted scholar who has uncovered other forgotten treasures in Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela. The philanthropic archaeologist set out to find this Ecuadorian trove before anyone else might plunder it. But that was three months ago, and no one has heard since from Dr. Pierce and his party that included his wife, children, and a brother, along with several assistants.

Agent Brandon Jacobs—Nick and Ishi's field supervisor—was once very close to Sandra Pierce, Nathaniel's daughter, and is deeply worried. Due to a personal conflict of interest he can't get involved, and instead puts his job on the line by diverting Nick and Ishi from their assigned tasks of hunting down other looters to rescue Sandra and her family. The agent sets up a meeting between the pair and a beguiling translator who knows the Ecuadorian jungles quite well, named Mayta Navarro. Strikingly beautiful, this native Ecuadorian's outspoken confidence and Nick's devil-may-care outlook pits the two against each other from the start. However, Mayta's ancestors were once part of the feared Javaro tribe—best known for their fierce independence from modern society and the ancient practice of shrinking their enemies' severed heads. In truth, she is the perfect guide to aid Nick and Ishi in the search for Dr. Pierce.

As fate would have it, Dr. Pierce's exploration party was last seen heading into the remote jungles that belong to the Javaro. Mayta's comfort in dealing with the Javaro might mean very little—especially if a rumor proves true that a wicked shaman named Shuratu has captured the family and their friends. Time may have already run out for Dr. Pierce and his party, but will Nick and Ishi face the same potential destiny of having their heads becoming belt ornaments in the effort to save the innocent? Or can he again find a way to best a cunningly evil adversary, while also resisting the instinctive urge to collect artifacts from a treasure heretofore believed to be purely mythical?

Nick's fate and Ishi's depends on whether the pair can survive the perils lurking in the upper Amazon Basin, or instead become the next victims in the River of the Damned...