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Black Rain: A Thriller

Black Rain: A Thriller

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by Graham Brown
     
 

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From Graham Brown, co-author of the New York Times bestselling thriller Devil’s Gate with Clive Cussler, comes Black Rain . . .

Covert government operative Danielle Laidlaw leads an expedition into the deepest reaches of the Amazon in search of a legendary Mayan city. Assisted by a renowned university professor

Overview

From Graham Brown, co-author of the New York Times bestselling thriller Devil’s Gate with Clive Cussler, comes Black Rain . . .

Covert government operative Danielle Laidlaw leads an expedition into the deepest reaches of the Amazon in search of a legendary Mayan city. Assisted by a renowned university professor and protected by a mercenary named Hawker, her team journeys into the tangled rain forest—unaware that they are replacements for a group that vanished weeks before, and that the treasure they are seeking is no mere artifact but a breakthrough discovery that could transform the world.

Shadowed by a ruthless billionaire, threatened by a violent indigenous tribe, and stalked by an unseen enemy that leaves battered corpses in its wake, the group desperately seeks the connection between the deadly reality of the Mayan legend, the nomadic tribe that haunts them, and the chilling secret buried beneath the ancient ruins.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Black Rain is an adventure that's not only a terrific read, but is smart, intelligent, and poised to shake up the whole thriller community.  Every copy should come with a bucket of popcorn and a John Williams soundtrack to play in the background.  Loved it."—Linwood Barclay, author of Fear the Worst

"Black Rain sizzles with tension and twists that both entertain and magnetize.  The plot envelopes the reader into a brilliantly conceived world, full of strange and amazing things.  Graham Brown is an exciting new talent, a writer we're going to be hearing a lot from in the years ahead.  I can't wait."—Steve Berry, author of The Paris Vendetta
Publishers Weekly
Mayan myth, including the much-ballyhooed 2012 doomsday theory, forms the backbone of this action-packed debut. Danielle Laidlaw, an investigator for a covert branch of the National Research Institute, sets off into the Amazon with a small group of mercenaries, renegades, rogues, and scholars to uncover the source of mysterious radioactive crystals, hoping to find an ancient Mayan city and a possible source for clean energy. Ruthless billionaire Richard Kaufman has his own plans for the technology and will stop at nothing to get it, even if it means killing Danielle and her team. There are other dangers lurking in the rain forests, including a cartoonishly savage tribe of natives called the Chollokwan and a mysterious man-eating creature. A few sections seem unnecessarily padded, but the fast pace and nonstop violence will keep readers forging ahead. (Feb.)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780553592412
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
01/26/2010
Pages:
528
Sales rank:
412,450
Product dimensions:
4.15(w) x 6.86(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Manaus, Brazil

Danielle Laidlaw sat alone on the terrace of a small café overlooking the great river. In the heat-induced calm of a sweltering afternoon she watched the sun paint traces of gold on the river’s surface. It was a mesmerizing and hypnotic sight, and one she’d gazed at for too long.

She turned her attention to the café, looking past the tables and their bright yellow umbrellas to what she could see of the café’s interior. In the heat of the afternoon the place was all but empty. Certainly there was no sign of the man she was waiting on, a man who was running atypically late.

With quick hands, she retrieved her BlackBerry, checked for any messages and then typed a none-too-subtle text. It read: Where the hell are you?

Before she could press send, she caught sight of him, speaking to a waiter in the café’s foyer.

She spotted his silver hair first, and then his craggy face as he turned in her direction. He walked toward her, as nattily dressed as always, today in dark slacks, a button-down shirt and a navy blue dinner jacket. She wondered how he could wear such clothes in the heat of central Brazil, but then Arnold Moore didn’t do compromise very well, not even with the vagaries of nature.

“You’re late,” she said. “Did you have trouble finding this place?”

He pursed his lips as if the suggestion itself was ludicrous. “Of course not,” he said. “I simply asked where one might find a brooding, dark-haired woman angrily checking her BlackBerry a hundred times a minute. Surprisingly, only seven different people pointed me in your direction.”

As she smiled at his barb, Danielle sensed the eyes of the waitstaff upon them. It happened more often than not. She was thirty-one, tall and fit with high cheekbones and glossy chestnut hair, and he was twice her age, gray and refined, almost continental in his bearing. People who saw them together commonly gawked, assuming her to be his mistress or trophy wife or perhaps, less cynically, a niece or daughter. The truth would have surprised them: she was his partner, his protégé and one of the few people in the world he actually trusted.

As ranking field operatives for an American organization known as the National Research Institute, Danielle Laidlaw and Arnold Moore had traveled much of the globe together. In just the prior year they’d spent time in eleven countries, studying everything from oil field resuscitation in the Baltics to nano-tube production in Tokyo. They’d even been to Venice as the NRI partnered with the Italian government on a plan to protect the island with a band of giant sea gates.

Their stock-in-trade was to examine cutting-edge projects and determine what technologies, if any, could be valuable to the United States. Then, through a combination of relationship building, bribes, or even outright theft, they were to secure for their country what might be of interest.

To that end, she and Moore spent their days in cutting-edge labs or at illustrious seminars. Their nights resembled those of the jet set, attending state functions and elaborate parties thrown by corporations and wealthy entrepreneurs. It was often as glamorous as it was rewarding. So far, however, the mission to Brazil was proving to be an exception.

The NRI’s interest in the country was unrelated to anything being designed, developed or produced there. In fact, it concerned the past as much as the future, beginning with a group of artifacts recovered from the Amazon by an American explorer named Blackjack Martin.

A fortune hunter more than anything else, Martin launched his expedition in 1926, in search of anything that might bring him fame. He returned a year later having mostly failed. The stories he told were laughed off as fanciful exaggerations or outright lies. And the few artifacts he did bring back raised little more than passing interest and were soon consigned to the dusty backrooms of various museums, forgotten if not lost. At least, that is, until a chance encounter with one of them, and an examination with modern tools, had drawn the NRI’s substantial interest.

Since then, Danielle and Arnold Moore had been in Brazil, trying without success to pick up on Blackjack Martin’s trail. After months of fruitless effort, Danielle believed she’d finally found something that would help.

“I have good news,” she said. “And something to show you.”

Moore grabbed a cloth napkin and snapped it open. “And I have bad news,” he said, “straight from the mouth of our director.”

The words were spoken in a tone that Moore reserved for moments of disgust. She sensed a hint of resignation on Moore’s face, the bitterness of another argument lost or some new and bizarre order being implemented over his objection, something that had become a pattern on this particular assignment.

“What’s happened now?” she asked.

Moore shook his head. “You first. Perhaps something positive will take the sting out of what I have to tell you.”

“Fine,” she said, reaching into a small leather bag at the foot of the table. She pulled out a flat gray stone and placed it in front of Moore. “Take a look at that.”

About two inches thick, the stone was roughly rectangular in shape, with jagged edges on three sides and a face slightly larger than a postcard. It tapered at one end and was covered with weathered symbols, including one that resembled a skull and others that appeared to represent animals.

Moore took the stone from her, holding it out at arm’s length. He squinted hard before giving in to necessity and pulling a pair of bifocals from his pocket. With great precision he placed them in their proper spot at the end of his nose.

“Hieroglyphic,” he noted.

“And clearly Mayan,” she said.

He nodded, angling the piece for a better view. As he did, the edges of the glyphs caught the sun. “My, my,” he whispered to himself. “Now, this is a sight.”

“Take a look at the top right corner,” she said. “Recognize that one?”

Moore studied the glyph, a grin creeping onto his face. “The same mark we saw on Blackjack Martin’s cradle,” he said. “Xibalba: the underworld.”

Her eyebrows went up in triumph. If they were right, this was the first real proof they’d found supporting what Martin had described in his wild journals. “Hard to believe, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” he said. “Very hard.” He looked at her suspiciously. “Where did you get this?”

“I bought it from a logger who’d taken his crew upriver for contraband hardwoods. Mahogany, for the most part.”

Mahogany was an important cash crop in the Amazon, but the trees grew slowly and most of those in accessible areas had been felled long ago. Others were protected. As a result, increasing amounts of illegal logging took place far upriver, where the loggers went in search of untouched lands to harvest. As time went by, this trade took them deeper and deeper into the watershed, to places where few others journeyed.

“How far in was he?’ Moore asked with renewed enthusiasm.

“Eight days from here, a trip we could make in four or five.”

As Moore examined the stone, Danielle felt a new surge of energy. A reverberation of the jolt she’d felt when first viewing the stone herself—and something sorely needed by both of them.

“Did he know what he was selling you?” Moore asked, flipping the stone over.

“Not the specifics,” she said. “But he knows where it came from and he claimed to have seen a much larger stone nearby, one with similar markings. Too heavy to carry, apparently, so he took this one instead.”

She watched as Moore ran his fingers across the sharp edges on the back of the stone; the rest was relatively smooth and weathered.

“Recent break,” he said. “I wonder if he chipped this piece off of the bigger one.”

“My thoughts exactly,” she said.

Moore looked up. “What else did he tell you?”

“He said they hired some members of the Nuree tribe to act as guides upriver. One of the tribesmen pointed out the larger stone as they were hiking along the banks of a small tributary. They treat it as a marker of some kind, denoting the border of a land they consider to be cursed. Beyond it lie terrible things, apparently: shadows darker than the night, a tribe that converses with the spirits and controls wild animals . . . and a wall,” she said, “made with the bones of human beings.”

It was local folklore—more often outright false than even partly reliable—but in this case they had reason to trust it, at least enough to hope. One of the few landmarks Blackjack Martin had used in his journal was a place he called the Wall of Skulls. If they could find it, they might be able to trace the rest of his movements and locate the source of the items he’d brought back. And if they could do that . . .

“A wall made of bones,” Moore repeated.

Meet the Author

Graham Brown was born in Chicago. He is a pilot and an attorney. He lives with his wife, Tracey, in Tucson, Arizona, where he is currently at work on his second novel for Bantam Dell, a sequel to Black Rain.

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Black Rain 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 53 reviews.
EbonyAngel More than 1 year ago
Great book. Suspensful story. Once I started, couldn't put it down. Mayan legends, the past and the future, all had a ring of truth. The beasts scared the living daylights out of me and gave me nightmares. All in all, a story I won't soon forget.
bhorn More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put this book down until I was finished it was that good! A fast paced adventurous and dangerous story that keeps you wanting more. So little is known about the Mayan people and their history yet this book and this great adventure helped me want to discover more. Set in a tropical and dangerous part of a world that seems to continuously escape human contact, because people keep dying. Definetely an "Indiana Jones-ish" style of charactor named Hawker who always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Good against evil. New author reminds me of the great writing styles of authors like Steve Berry and Douglas Preston whose charactors are out to find something that is so precious that it has either been missing for a long time or has yet to be discovered. A true thriller! Can wait for the next book! Great book Mr. Brown!
dogonit More than 1 year ago
I loved this book right from the first couple of pages. Lots of bad guys and action. I loved the setting and the characters. My first thought was this would make a great movie,it has all of the ingredients needed for a real action adventure.I can hardly wait to get into Black Sun. He is my new favorite right after James Rollins.
harstan More than 1 year ago
National Research Institute (NRI) undercover operative Danielle Laidlaw leads a specially selected team on a journey into the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest in search of a lost legendary Mayan Underworld Xibalba. Their goal is to learn the source of mysterious radioactive crystals that appears to be a cheap clean energy source brought back in artifacts by Blackjack Martin in 1926, but ignored until now. In Manaus, Brazil, colleague Arnold Moore shocks her when he tells her she goes in alone as Operations Director Gibbs recalled him to DC. Irate but intrepid Laidlaw trusts no one on this expedition to have her back; as Moore was the one person she would and could depend on with her life. Having her transportation and supplies bought from under her; Laidlaw knows her party is not the only group searching for Xibalba. Ruthless billionaire Richard Kaufman will kill to monopolize the technology. Danger also lurks from tribes like the nomadic Chollokwan that kill trespassers and a strange creature that is even more dangerous. Unbeknownst to Laidlaw and her team is that they are the second unit NRI sent into the Amazon; the first group is presumed dead. Black Rain is an exciting Mayan mythological thriller with a frantic pace once Laidlaw leaves Manaus for the jungle. Filled with violence and brutality including some unnecessarily overly described passages that feel more like page fillers than graphic escapades, readers will be caught up with one of the fastest action-packed thrillers of the year; seat belts are a requirement. Harriet Klausner
TheCrowdedLeaf More than 1 year ago
Every good action-adventure novel that's going to take a story and morph it into an edge-of-your-seat thriller needs to be based on a bit of truth. Or rather, legend that could be truth. Graham Brown's debut novel Black Rain exemplifies this type of thriller, taking a Mayan legend and transforming it into a modern suspense thriller, complete with ex-CIA agents, lost temples, covert agendas, angry jungle-dwelling villagers, and big scary monsters. Searching for the lost Mayan "Garden of Eden," a place called Tulan Zuyua, NRI operative Danielle Laidlaw and her band of "soldiers" trek through the Brazilian jungle in search of Mayan artifacts which should not be located so far south of the equator. Aided by ex-CIA agent Hawker, Mayan History Professor McCarter and his student Susan, and a handful of muscle-and-gun-clad South Africans, Danielle must lead her team through the jungle, while protecting them from an ancient people, the Chollokwan, as well as whatever monsters scream through the trees at night. Betrayed and hunted by more than just a mythical beast, what Danielle and her team find will surprise them all, as will the steps they must take in order to survive. Black Rain is an excellent action-suspense science-fiction novel among the likes of James Rollins, and Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Brown's writing was skillful and I was thankful his female voice was realistic. I did not have to question a male author writing a female voice as I've frequently done with other novels, since Danielle read true to me, as did her actions. There was a lot of information in this novel, and several multi-part answers or theories which made me feel like I'd forgotten pieces by the end (especially with the Mayan legend), but it wasn't enough to make me disappointed. There are many strings, not all of which are tied by the conclusion, but I found I preferred the ending as it was, with a bit of a cliffhanger. Especially since Brown is writing a sequel. Overall Black Rain is a great read if you like modern suspense novels grounded in ancient legends. Since I love those books I was definitely hoping to enjoy Graham Brown's debut novel, and I was not disappointed. A happy 4 stars and an urge to Brown to hurry up with the sequel! (I received this ARC from LibraryThing Early Reviewers)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Different than anything I've read lately, I enjoyed it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved reading
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lots of action and the imagery was vivid. I immediately liked Hawker and the Mayan and Chollocwan aspect was intriguing. The story was well written and flowed nicely from scene to scene. Looking forward to reading Black Sun now.
Dean_Kutzler More than 1 year ago
The dust jacket was a little off.  This is a great Mayan archeological tale that you'll enjoy.  Riff with temples and gods and mystery!  Oh my!  A solid story, yet the number of characters left me a little confused at times.  Once the excess was murdered off, a few main characters started to shine.  I feel the second story in this series (Black Sun) is going to be better.  I'm off to find out!
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I dont usually read this genre but this book was a good read, highly recommended
PatriciaCO More than 1 year ago
Mixing bowl - throw in some flawed but interesting characters from many different places in life, some ancient Mayan history, an unusual story set in the Brazilian jungles, some frightening creatures, mystery, intrigue, betrayal, redemption and refusal to surrender your right to survive and you have the recipe for this book. It's refreshing to see a strong female lead character in a book like this and Danielle Laidlaw certainly fits that bill. She has a mission to accomplish, get down to business and tell her what she needs to know to accomplish her mission, who needs to stop and smell the roses along the way? She learns about being a strong leader and taking care of her people on a mission that was labeled "Regardless of Consequences". She also holds her own against several strong male characters portrayed in the story. The story takes us through several interpersonal relationships, both good and bad, and could be considered a study in how ordinary people from all walks of life react and adapt to extremely unusual circumstances. The story is a great read with an unexpected twist at the end that will have you running to the second book Black Sun. If you like Black Rain...you will LOVE Black Sun! In short, great book and the little hook at the end will definitely have me reading Black Sun right away. This will not show me as a confirmed buyer as I purchased them somewhere else but I have both Black Rain and Black Sun and can't wait for his third book The Eden Prophecy: A Thriller and his Clive Cussler novel Devil's Gate (The Numa Files) to come out.
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