First Line: Deep in Honduras, in a region called La Mosquitia, lie some of the last unexplored places on earth.
For hundreds of years, there have been rumors of a lost city of immense wealth hidden somewhere in the interior of Honduras. Called the White City or the Lost City of the Monkey God, natives have spoken of ancestors who fled there to escape the Spanish-- and they also warn that anyone who enters this sacred city will fall ill and die.
In 1940 Theodore Morde claimed to have found the city but committed suicide before revealing its location. In 2012, bestselling author Douglas Preston joined a team of scientists who were going to use the latest technology to find this lost city. They did, fighting nearly insurmountable odds to do so, but it wasn't until they returned home that tragedy struck: Preston and others found they had contracted a horrifying-- sometimes lethal-- and incurable disease in the uncharted jungle of Honduras.
As much as I've enjoyed the books of the writing team of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, I have to admit that I prefer the solo books that Preston writes, and The Lost City of the Monkey God is no exception. Preston's descriptions of the landscape and wildlife of the jungle re-enforced my opinion that the best way for me to explore these fascinating places is by reading books. (The insects and snakes alone would probably drive me insane.)
Preston covers all the bases in telling his story, and every one is spellbinding. From the history of Honduras to the history of searching for the lost city to how the language of archaeology is changing and on to the actual discovery of the city... I couldn't get enough.
But the book hit high gear once Preston and the others returned home. From an archaeological search for an ancient city, the book changes into a hair-raising tale of the spread of a horrific disease. Even Preston's explanation of the differences between the spread of disease in the Old World versus the New World kept me turning the pages.
Ultimately The City of the Lost Monkey God is a cautionary tale that infuriated me. Today the only diseases for which cures are being avidly sought are the ones in which the pharmaceutical companies can make lots of money. If the disease affects mainly poor people, forget it. They can't pay, so it's not worth trying to find a cure. But as Preston so ably tells us, disease can spread long distances, and ignoring the "no profit" ones is putting us all in grave danger.
The Lost City of the Monkey God is a book that satisfies on many levels, and I highly recommend it.
The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston
Grand Central Publishing © 2017
Hardcover, 336 pages
Source: Purchased at The Poisoned Pen.