Review: “The Lair” by Tony Healey

2 of 5 stars.

Included in Chronology published by Curiosity Quills Press, this short story follows British collector/dealer, Jack Axle, on his escape from the clutches of an Amazonian tribe from whom he stole a sacred idol in order to fetch a lofty price from a buyer in Paris. The tale opens with arrows flying and Jack’s guide already dead at the hands of the irate natives. His hired escape boat, with captain and captain’s mate, wait in the middle of the river to stay out of harm’s way. After a desperate swim and dozens of leeches later, Jack and the remaining hired hands take off in their motorboat with the stolen idol as darkness descends and mist condenses into fog.

Despite the Indiana Jones set-up, Jack is no hero. The tale is a cautionary one against the European encroachment into native territories without respect to native cultures. The levels of light and fog seem to conspire against the motorboat in its attempt to escape what the captain’s mate refers to as “the lair of the gods” in the final line of the story. The story takes on supernatural or psychologically twisted tones in the fog. From the boat after hours of escape, they catch sight of the dead guide beckoning form the shore . . .

Much is left unexplained in this vague tale. Motivations are lacking and characters are left with only their racial identity as definers. There are natives [of unknown tribe and belief system that must incorporate a physical idol], the hired crew [Latinos who’ve adopted British names for the sake of their employer], and Jack whom his hirelings merely call “English” in lieu of using his name. This seems a parable, not a story. Jack may not think much of the natives, but he would need to know what village [of the hundreds] and what tribe [of the dozens] he is infiltrating in search of the idol. But Jack gives the readers very little, and I wanted more.
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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