Review: The Drop-Dead Temple of Doom (The Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries)

Ace detective Lee Alvarez is perfectly cozy at home when she and her husband receive a panicky call — The Drop-Dead Temple of Doom (The Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries) by @heatherhaven

Get ready for a wild ride, this book is non stop from beginning to end. Sure it starts on a calm Sunday morning and escalates quickly when Lee’s husband is called into action to find his cousin’s husband, Martin, who is missing in the Guatemalan jungle. Despite her being an indoor kind of girl, he recruits Lee onto the mission because he senses there is a mystery to solve at the archeological dig where his cousin works. He is of course right. Kidnapping, vandalism, theft, maybe murder? Lee is on a roll pulling together the facts and clues with her “survival trained” CEO mother in tow and her trusty, IT genius brother on the sat phone. The Alvarez Family is on the case. Twists and turns abound leading to a grand reveal that is as humorous as it is serious. I certainly never picked up on all the secrets.

I loved this book. 

I chose to read it because I live with a junior archeologist and my daily life is filled with words like stratigraphy, digs, grants and finds. Plus, there is lecture upon lecture about ancient artifacts, ancient history and just what it all means (spoiler alert: It’s probably ritual). The fairly recent discoveries of LIDAR enhanced ruins covering the jungles of Central America are of particular interest around here at the moment. This book looked like fun and I am always looking to see if someone writing a story about this stuff gets it right.  Heather Haven definitely did.

This is a story of intrigue, backstabbing and just plain greed and that is just the academics on staff. Once people start dying the story really gets interesting. This book has a large cast of characters, all of them vivid and well written and so perfectly suspect. The relationship between Lee and her mom, Lila, is hilarious. On one hand Lee is a grown woman who has proven time and again that she is quite capable, yet Lila can reduce her to gibbering incoherence in a single glance. “But, Mom!” is the comedic subtext behind most of their dialogue. Still, the two make a terrific sleuthing team and there is a lot of ground to cover in this tale.  In addition to great characters the description of the look and feel of the jungle and rainforests is spot on and puts the reader right in it.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I received an advance review copy for free through Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, and I am leaving this review voluntarily

Take a moment to look back on book seven in the series with Guest Post: How to Write the Perfect Mystery by Heather Haven


Ace detective Lee Alvarez is perfectly cozy at home with her cats when she and her former Navy SEAL husband receive a panicky call from JJ, an archeologist cousin, who’s on assignment deep in the Guatemalan jungle. The news? JJ is pregnant– and the father of her child has gone missing in the wilderness. The site director won’t let JJ call the police, so she asks Lee to travel to the jungle and track down her missing man.

Begging for help from Lee Alvarez sure makes sense–Lee’s family runs Discretionary Inquiries, a ritzy Silicon Valley P.I. firm. Lee is the star detective, her Uncle Tio’s on staff as the genius chef, and Lee’s brother, Richard, is a whiz at all things technology. Not to mention the presence of Lee’s very high class, upscale, and frankly scary mother Lila. Who–by the way—steamrolls her way onto Lee’s jungle trip.

A beleaguered Lee, the judgmental and prissy Lila, and Lee’s gorgeous SEAL husband (turned partner-in-crime) depart on the adventure of a lifetime, perfect for cozy mystery armchair travelers. And, once in the jungle, the already-gripping story takes a grisly turn: the three investigators have barely arrived in the lush, verdant wilderness when they discover a dead man–the assistant to JJ’s missing husband–dressed in traditional Mayan warrior garb with a poisonous frog crammed in his mouth.

And that’s just for starters: author Haven concocts a wild ride through the jungle that’s simultaneously fun, potentially fatal, and always entertaining.

Fans of cozy authors like CeeCee James, Hope Callaghan, and of course Janet Evanovich, will discover a new favorite series! Lee’s gang will also appeal to lovers of female PIs, especially those with lots of colorful friends and relatives, like Linda Barnes’ Carlotta Carlyle and Lisa Lutz’s Izzy Spellman. A near certainty: If you like THE SPELLMAN FILES, you’ll love the Alvarez family!

Purchase Links – Amazon

After studying drama at the University of Miami in Miami, Florida, Heather went to Manhattan to pursue a career. There she wrote short stories, novels, comedy acts, television treatments, ad copy, commercials, and two one-act plays, produced at several places, such as Playwrights Horizon. Once she even ghostwrote a book on how to run an employment agency. She was unemployed at the time.

One of her first paying jobs was writing a love story for a book published by Bantam called Moments of Love. She had a deadline of one week but promptly came down with the flu. Heather wrote “The Sands of Time” with a raging temperature, and delivered some pretty hot stuff because of it. Her stint at New York City’s No Soap Radio—where she wrote comedic ad copy—help develop her longtime love affair with comedy.

She has won many awards for the humorous Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, Persephone Cole Vintage Mysteries, and Corliss and Other Award Winning Stories. However, her proudest achievement is winning the Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY) 2014 Silver Medal for her stand-alone noir mystery, Murder Under the Big Top.

As the real-life daughter of Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey circus folk, she was inspired by stories told throughout her childhood by her mother, a trapeze artist and performer. The book cover even has a picture of her mother sitting atop an elephant from that time. Her father trained elephants. Heather brings the daily existence of the Big Top to life during World War II, embellished by her own murderous imagination.

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