Monday, April 30, 2012

The Magdalena Curse Book Review

Author: F.G. Cottam. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  Thomas Dunne Books. ISBN: 9780312643256.

Annotation: A covert military operation in the Bolivian rainforest lead to former Colonel Mark Hunter encountering a beautiful but evil sorceress who cursed his offspring to commune with the dead.  Now, fifteen years later, his ten-year-old son, Adam, is possessed with the spirits of the departed, and Hunter must discover a way to end the curse and save his son’s life.
Personal thoughts: I really enjoy F.G. Cottam’s novels, and The Magdalena Curse was no different. His writing style and ability to create suspense and mystery is excellent. I was really intrigued by each of the characters in the book, and found it really difficult to put down, wanting to learn their fates. I always like Cottam’s inclusion of historical or cultural references and how they tie into the story so well. I can’t wait to read his next novel once it is published in the United States. F.G. Cottam definitely ranks high among authors I would recommend to older teens or adults who want an entertaining and spooky read!   
Plot summary: Fifteen years earlier, Colonel Mark Hunter was a newlywed sent on a covert mission from his London home to the rainforests of Bolivia. Expecting to uncover and destroy a drug trafficking facility, what he and his comrades actually discovered in the jungle was something far more sinister. An evil sorceress protected by an army of undead soldiers murdered his fellow soldiers, and cursed Hunter, promising that his offspring would commune with the dead. Now, Mark is retired and living in Scotland with his ten-year-old son Adam, his wife and daughter recently killed in an accident. Adam is an exceptionally bright child, but has recently become afflicted with terrifying nightmares. Although he knows in his heart that his son his possessed as a result of the curse, Mark calls upon local doctor, Elizabeth Bancroft, to try to determine if there is a medical cause of Adam’s illness. Elizabeth is no stranger to the idea of curses, having come from a family long associated with witchcraft. Elizabeth herself doesn’t believe in magic, but the more she learns about Adam, the more she is convinced that there is something truly evil at work. Determined to save his son, Mark searches for a way to end the curse. In trying to find a cure, however, Mark begins to uncover the truth about what is afflicting Adam, and how his presence in Bolivia fifteen years earlier was no accident at all.
Review: Always creating an intriguing mixture of historical fact and fiction, veteran author F.G. Cottam offers up yet another nail-biting novel in the same vein as his previous two works, The House of Lost Souls and Dark Echo. Cottam’s novels usually contain more than a little macabre details, and The Magdalena Curse is no different. Although somewhat toned down from his other two works, some of the grisly details make this novel appropriate only for the older teen and adult audience. For readers who want something spooky and suspenseful, however, this, like Cottam’s other novels, is an excellent choice. The details of what exactly is transpiring in The Magdalena Curse take awhile to unravel. Is Adam possessed? If he is, who or what is possessing him? How can the entity be stopped? These are all questions that the reader journeys through, all with an edge-of-the-seat quality that makes the novel difficult to put down. Cottam’s mixture of historic references makes the story even more intriguing, especially in generating interest in learning more about various locations, poets and songs. Overall, The Magdalena Curse is a scary and entertaining novel that fans of suspense are sure to enjoy.  
Genre: Fiction/Horror
Reading level: Grade 10+
Similar titles: The House of Lost Souls and Dark Echo by F.G. Cottam.
Themes:  Possession, witches, curses, the occult, wolves.  
Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from The Times, Saga and Good Book Guide 
Series Information: N/A   
Discussion questions:
-     What do you think Miss Hall and Mrs. Mallory were doing in Bolivia?

-     How do you think Lillian Hunter and Elizabeth Bancroft were connected?

-     Why do you think Mrs. Mallory was fixated on Adam?

-     What do you think Elizabeth accomplished at the end of the novel?

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