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With the October 2004 review, we began rating the books on the basis of one to four trowels; 
one trowel= don’t bother, to four trowels= run right out to your local book store and buy the hard cover!

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Indiana Jones and the Army of the Dead by Steve Perry

Reviewed on: July 1, 2023


Del Rey Publishing:  New York
2009 (PB)

Yesterday (June 30) marked the return, after an absence of some fifteen years, of that intrepid archaeologist/adventurer, Indiana Jones, to the Big Screen in the much-anticipated Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. Between 1991 and 1999 LucasFilms commissioned several authors to write twelve potboiler novels that followed the exploits of the whip-cracking archaeologist in his formative years before the first movie (chronologically) took place. (The first in that series, Indiana Jones and the Peril at Delphi, was reviewed here in March 2003.)  A tenth novel – Indiana Jones and the Army of the Dead-- was published in close conjunction with the fourth film, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and I thought it appropriate to review that seminal work in the Indiana Jones oeuvre to prepare fans for viewing what will be (if Harrison Ford has his way) the last Indiana Jones movie.

Army of the Dead opens in 1943 as now-Lieutenant Colonel Henry Jones, Jr., and his sidekick, MI6 agent George “Mac” McHale, are on furlough from the military intelligence duties they have shared in both the Pacific and European theatres of war.  Rather than enjoying a stateside break from the war, Mac has talked Indy into searching for a giant black pearl, called the Heart of Darkness, that, legend had it, possessed immense powers.  Its legend stretched back to the days of the 18th Century slave trade between Africa and the New World and how it disappeared in transit and was rumored to ultimately be buried on a small island off present-day Haiti, called Zile Muri-yo—Island of the Dead.  While Indy hopes that finding the pearl will ultimately result in Allied scientists studying the artifact, Mac’s intentions may be less selfless. (Mac’s actions in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull will demonstrate just how deceitful he can be!)

After surviving a plane crash, Indy and Mac finally arrive in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and seek the aid of Marie Arnoux, a beautiful (naturally) young woman, who agrees to lead them to the island.  But they are not the only ones seeking the powerful talisman.  Nazi Colonel Doktor Edwin Gruber, undercover as a Dutch businessman, and Yamada Hajime, a Japanese spy disguised as a Chinese scholar, are informed of Indy and Mac’s interests, and follow the two adventurers to the little island that seems to strike fear in the hearts of rational men.  Gruber and Yamada, while technically allies, may not share the same strategic goals, as both have heard rumors of an occult substance hidden on the island that could make their armies invulnerable.

More dangerous than either Gruber or Yamada, however, is the shadowy and sinister Houngan Boukman, a 200-year-old Voodoo priest, who needs to unearth the same treasure Indy and Mac seek to rejuvenate his waning powers—powers which are still potent enough for him to command the movements of a small Zombie army on the Island of the Dead!  The pace picks up as Indy and Mac must battle not only Nazis, Japanese Imperial troops and zombies controlled by an ancient maniac, but also a massive tropical storm and a death-defying plunge over a rain-swollen cataract!  To make matters even more dicey, as the denouement looms, Indy learns that the lovely and seductive Marie admits that she is a Voodoo (or Voudoun) mambo (priestess) and the great grandniece to Boukman! Can she possibly be trusted to aid our heroes.

To say that the story’s climax—a veritable Zombie Jamboree (shout-out to the late great Kingston Trio!) -- is over the top would be a tremendous understatement, but Steve Perry’s yarn is great good fun and his discourses on Zombie lore and legend and on the Japanese Samurai culture are very enlightening.  Three trowels for this brief return to the life and times of Doctor Jones!