California-based private investigator Gina “Tinkerbell” Miyoko is a powerhouse personality in a petite package. I have to give author Maya Bohnhoff credit for populating her book with some of the most inventive fictional names I’ve ever read. Gina’s Russian-American mom is Nadia Eliska Arkhangelski Miyoko (quite a mouthful), and a mysterious Mexican archeologist goes by Cruz Sacramento Vargas. But don’t worry, those names don’t slow down the fast pace of her debut mystery, The Antiquities Hunter.
The story begins with Gina’s best friend, Rose Delgado, an undercover agent with the National Park Service who investigates thefts of Southwestern artifacts and their sale on the black market. When Rose is attacked prior to giving damaging testimony in a court case, Gina agrees to help find out who is behind it. What she didn’t anticipate when she volunteered for the job was that she would end up masquerading as Marianna Esposito, a spoiled rich girl, in a sting operation in Cancun, Mexico, with the very attractive Cruz Vargas posing as her bodyguard.
Being a femme fatale doesn’t come easily to Gina. (Cruz has to help her with her makeup.) Her maneuvers to try and dodge the amorous attentions of the mark, a wealthy art collector and resort owner, Felipe Revez, are hilarious. Along with the laughs, readers gain important insight on how many ancient sites are being plundered every year, and the sophisticated black-market system that sells to collectors, auction houses, and even respected museums. This was an entertaining and informative read with imaginative and interesting characters.