THE MAGYAR VENUS
By: Lyn Hamilton
Berkley Publishing Group, New York
The Lara McClintoch mystery series, of which The Magyar Venus is
the eighth installment, just keeps getting better and better. While some
other archaeological mystery series – I’m concerned about the Kathy
Reichs and Dana Cameron novels—seem to perhaps be running on fumes,
judging from their last entries—Lyn Hamilton’s skills appear to be
getting stronger with each new novel.
One of the strong elements in the Lara McClintoch series has been its
sense of place—particularly its sense of exotic place. From the initial
novel The Xibalba Murders, set in Mexico, to later episodes set in
such exotic locales as Malta, Ireland, and Thailand, among others, one
constant of the series was the author’s ability to make the locale come
to life and to make the reader want to visit those places. This has
apparently worked well enough for Lyn Hamilton to stage tours based on her
novels! The Magyar Venus is no different except that Lara (and the
reader) do not arrive in Hungary until page 129.
The first half of the book sets the stage for Lara’s investigations
in Budapest and rural Hungary. The reader is introduced to a number of
women who, along with Lara, were dubbed the Dovercourt Divas some twenty
or more years earlier when they were all students at the University of
Toronto, as well as some of their male friends. While this might sound a
bit like a CBC version of "Friends," the impromptu reunion
activity at the opening of a new exhibit at the Cottingham Museum turns
first nasty and then deadly when decades-old animosities flare up, too
much alcohol is consumed by nearly everyone—including Lara (or is it a
date-rape drug?), and one of the Divas winds up a suicide (or is it
At the center of these swirling emotions and events is the Magyar
Venus, an Upper Paleolithic figure of a woman carved in mammoth ivory.
This ancient artifact brought Lara’s old friends together, may have
caused the death of one of the them, reunited Lara with an old lover, and
then proved to be the reason that a mysterious assailant tracks her
through the primitive hinterland of Hungary. This assailant, it soon
becomes apparent, will only be satisfied with Lara’s death.
This is another wonderful entry in this entertaining series, and while
I’ve never considered Hungary to be high on my list of
"must-see" countries in the world, it is now!
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