by Scott Smith

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Trapped in the Mexican jungle, a group of friends stumble upon a creeping horror unlike anything they could ever imagine.Two young couples are on a lazy Mexican vacation–sun-drenched days, drunken nights, making friends with fellow tourists. When the brother of one of those friends disappears, they decide to venture into the jungle to look for him. What started out as a fun day-trip slowly spirals into a nightmare when they find an ancient ruins site . . . and the terrifying presence that lurks there.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307266040
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/18/2006
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 88,190
File size: 488 KB

About the Author

Scott Smith was educated at Dartmouth College and Columbia University. He lives in New York City.

Read an Excerpt

The Ruins

By Scott Smith

Random House

Scott Smith
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1400043875

Chapter One

The Ruins

They met Mathias on a day trip to Cozumel. They'd hired a guide to take them snorkeling over a local wreck, but the buoy marking its location had broken off in a storm, and the guide was having difficulty finding it. So they were just swimming about, looking at nothing in particular. Then Mathias rose toward them from the depths, like a merman, a scuba tank on his back. He smiled when they told him their situation, and led them to the wreck. He was German, dark from the sun, and very tall, with a blond crew cut and pale blue eyes. He had a tattoo of an eagle on his right forearm, black with red wings. He let them take turns borrowing his tank so they could drop down thirty feet and see the wreck up close. He was friendly in a quiet way, and his English was only slightly accented, and when they pulled themselves into their guide's boat to head back to shore, he climbed in, too.

They met the Greeks two nights later, back in Cancun, on the beach near their hotel. Stacy got drunk and made out with one of them. Nothing happened beyond that, but the Greeks always seemed to be turning up afterward, no matter where they went or what they were doing. None of them spoke Greek, of course, and the Greeks didn't speak English, so it was mostly smiling and nodding and the occasional sharing of food or drinks. There were three Greeks-intheir early twenties, like Mathias and the rest of them-and they seemed friendly enough, even if they did appear to be following them about.

The Greeks not only didn't know English; they couldn't speak Spanish, either. They'd adopted Spanish names, though, which they seemed to find very amusing. Pablo and Juan and Don Quixote was how they introduced themselves, saying the names in their odd accents and gesturing at their chests. Don Quixote was the one Stacy made out with. All three looked enough alike, however-wide-shouldered and slightly padded, with their dark hair grown long and tied back in ponytails-that even Stacy had a hard time keeping track of who was who. It also seemed possible that they were trading the names around, that this was part of the joke, so the one who answered to Pablo on Tuesday would smilingly insist on Wednesday that he was Juan.

They were visiting Mexico for three weeks. It was August, a foolish time to travel to the Yucatan. The weather was too hot, too humid. There were sudden rainstorms nearly every afternoon, downpours that could flood a street in a matter of seconds. And with darkness, the mosquitoes arrived, vast humming clouds of them. In the beginning, Amy complained about all these things, wishing they'd gone to San Francisco, which had been her idea. But then Jeff lost his temper, telling her she was ruining it for everyone else, and she stopped talking about California-the bright, brisk days, the trolley cars, the fog rolling in at dusk. It wasn't really that bad anyway. It was cheap and uncrowded, and she decided to make the best of it.

There were four of them in all: Amy and Stacy and Jeff and Eric. Amy and Stacy were best friends. They'd cut their hair boyishly short for the trip, and they wore matching Panama hats, posing for photos arm in arm. They looked like sisters-Amy the fair one, Stacy the dark-both of them tiny, barely five feet tall, birdlike in their thinness. They were sisterly in their behavior, too, full of whispered secrets, wordless intimacies, knowing looks.

Jeff was Amy's boyfriend; Eric was Stacy's. The boys were friendly with each other, but not exactly friends. It had been Jeff's idea to travel to Mexico, a last fling before he and Amy started medical school in the fall. He'd found a good deal on the Internet: cheap, impossible to pass up. It would be three lazy weeks on the beach, lying in the sun, doing nothing. He'd convinced Amy to come with him, then Amy had convinced Stacy, and Stacy had convinced Eric.

Mathias told them that he'd come to Mexico with his younger brother, Henrich, but Henrich had gone missing. It was a confusing story, and none of them understood all the details. Whenever they asked him about it, Mathias became vague and upset. He slipped into German and waved his hands, and his eyes grew cloudy with the threat of tears. After awhile, they didn't ask anymore; it felt impolite to press. Eric believed that drugs were somehow involved, that Mathias's brother was on the run from the authorities, but whether these authorities were German, American, or Mexican, he couldn't say for certain. There'd been a fight, though; they all agreed upon this. Mathias had argued with his brother, perhaps even struck him, and then Henrich had disappeared. Mathias was worried, of course. He was waiting for him to return so that they could fly back to Germany. Sometimes he seemed confident that Henrich would eventually reappear and that all would be fine in the end, but other times he didn't. Mathias was reserved by nature, a listener rather than a talker, and prone in his present situation to sudden bouts of gloom. The four of them worked hard to cheer him up. Eric told funny stories. Stacy did her imitations. Jeff pointed out interesting sights. And Amy took countless photographs, ordering everyone to smile.

In the day, they sunned on the beach, sweating beside one another on their brightly colored towels. They swam and snorkeled; they got burned and began to peel. They rode horses, paddled around in kayaks, played miniature golf. One afternoon, Eric convinced them all to rent a sailboat, but it turned out he wasn't as adept at sailing as he'd claimed, and they had to be towed back to the dock. It was embarrassing, and expensive. At night, they ate seafood and drank too much beer.

Eric didn't know about Stacy and the Greek. He'd gone to sleep after dinner, leaving the other three to wander the beach with Mathias. There'd been a bonfire burning behind one of the neighboring hotels, a band playing in a gazebo. That was where they met the Greeks. The Greeks were drinking tequila and clapping in rhythm with the music. They offered to share the bottle. Stacy sat next to Don Quixote, and there was much talking, in their mutually exclusive languages, and much laughter, and the bottle passed back and forth, everyone wincing at the burning taste of the liquor, and then Amy turned and found Stacy embracing the Greek. It didn't last very long. Five minutes of kissing, a shy touch of her left breast, and the band was finished for the night. Don Quixote wanted her to go back to his room, but she smiled and shook her head, and it was over as easily as that.

In the morning, the Greeks laid out their towels alongside Mathias and the four of them on the beach, and in the afternoon they all went jet skiing together. You wouldn't have known about the kissing if you hadn't seen it; the Greeks were very gentlemanly, very respectful. Eric seemed to like them, too. He was trying to get them to teach him dirty words in Greek. He was frustrated, though, because it was hard to tell if the words they were teaching him were the ones he wanted to learn.

It turned out that Henrich had left a note. Mathias showed it to Amy and Jeff early one morning, during the second week of their vacation. It was handwritten, in German, with a shakily drawn map at the bottom. They couldn't read the note, of course; Mathias had to translate it for them. There wasn't anything about drugs or the police-that was just Eric being Eric, jumping to conclusions, the more dramatic the better. Henrich had met a girl on the beach. She'd flown in that morning, was on her way to the interior, where she'd been hired to work on an archaeological dig. It was at an old mining camp, maybe a silver mine, maybe emeralds-Mathias wasn't certain. Henrich and the girl had spent the day together. He'd bought her lunch and they'd gone swimming. Then he took her back to his room, where they showered and had sex. Afterward, she left on a bus. In the restaurant, over lunch, she'd drawn a map for him on a napkin, showing him where the dig was. She told him he should come, too, that they'd be glad for his help. Once she left, Henrich couldn't stop talking about her. He didn't eat dinner and he couldn't fall asleep. In the middle of the night, he sat up in bed and announced to Mathias that he was going to join the dig.

Mathias called him a fool. He'd only just met this girl, they were in the midst of their vacation, and he didn't know the first thing about archaeology. Henrich assured him that it was really none of his business. He wasn't asking for Mathias's permission; he was merely informing him of his decision. He climbed out of bed and started to pack. They called each other names, and Henrich threw an electric razor at Mathias, hitting him on the shoulder. Mathias rushed him, knocking him over. They rolled around on the hotel room floor, grappling, grunting obscenities, until Mathias accidentally head-butted Henrich in the mouth, cutting his lip. Henrich made much of this, rushing to the bathroom so that he could spit blood into the sink. Mathias pulled on some clothes and went out to get him ice, but then ended up going downstairs to the all-night bar by the pool. It was three in the morning. Mathias felt he needed to calm down. He drank two beers, one quickly, the other slowly. When he got back to their room, the note was sitting on his pillow. And Henrich was gone.

The note was three-quarters of a page long, though it seemed shorter when Mathias read it out loud in English. It occurred to Amy that Mathias might be skipping some of the passages, preferring to keep them private, but it didn't matter-she and Jeff got the gist of it. Henrich said that Mathias often seemed to mistake being a brother with being a parent. He forgave him for this, yet he still couldn't accept it. Mathias might call him a fool, but he believed it was possible he'd met the love of his life that morning, and he'd never be able to forgive himself-or Mathias, for that matter-if he let this opportunity slip past without pursuing it. He'd try to be back by their departure date, though he couldn't guarantee this. He hoped Mathias would manage to have fun on his own while he was gone. If Mathias grew lonely, he could always come and join them at the dig; it was only a half day's drive to the west. The map at the bottom of the note-a hand-drawn copy of the one the girl had sketched on the napkin for Henrich-showed him how to get there.

As Amy listened to Mathias tell his story and then struggle to translate his brother's note, she gradually began to realize that he was asking for their advice. They were sitting on the veranda of their hotel. A breakfast buffet was offered here every morning: eggs and pancakes and French toast, juice and coffee and tea, an immense pile of fresh fruit. A short flight of stairs led to the beach. Seagulls hovered overhead, begging for scraps of food, shitting on the umbrellas above the tables. Amy could hear the steady sighing of the surf, could see the occasional jogger shuffling past, an elderly couple searching for shells, a trio of hotel employees raking the sand. It was very early, just after seven. Mathias had awakened them, calling from the house phone downstairs. Stacy and Eric were still asleep.

Jeff leaned forward to study the map. It was clear to Amy, without anything explicit having been said, that it was his advice Mathias was soliciting. Amy didn't take offense; she was used to this sort of thing. Jeff had something about him that made people trust him, an air of competence and self-confidence. Amy sat back in her seat and watched him smooth the wrinkles from the map with the palm of his hand. Jeff had curly, dark hair, and eyes that changed color with the light. They could be hazel or green or the palest of brown. He wasn't as tall as Mathias, or as broad in the shoulders, but despite this, he somehow seemed to be the larger of the two. He had a gravity to him: he was calm, always calm. Someday, if all went according to plan, Amy imagined that this would be what would make him a good doctor. Or, at the very least, what would make people think of him as a good doctor.

Mathias's leg was jiggling, his knee jumping up and down. It was Wednesday morning. He and his brother were scheduled to fly home on Friday afternoon. "I go," he said. "I get him. I take him home. Right?"

Jeff glanced up from the map. "You'd be back this evening?" he asked.

Mathias shrugged, waved at the note. He only knew what his brother had written.

Amy recognized some of the towns on the map-Tizimin, Valladolid, Coba-names she'd seen in their guidebook. She hadn't really read the book; she'd only looked at the pictures. She remembered a ruined hacienda on the Tizimin page, a street lined with whitewashed buildings for Valladolid, a gigantic stone face buried in vines for Coba. Mathias's map had an X drawn somewhere vaguely west of Coba. This was where the dig was. You rode a bus from Cancun to Coba, where you hired a taxi, which took you eleven miles farther west. Then there was a path leading away from the road, two miles long, that you had to hike. If you came to the Mayan village, you'd gone too far.

Watching Jeff examine the map, she could guess what he was thinking. It had nothing to do with Mathias or his brother. He was thinking of the jungle, of the ruins there, and what it might be like to explore them. They'd talked vaguely of doing this when they'd first arrived: how they could hire a car, a local guide, and see whatever there was to be seen. But it was so hot; the idea of trudging through the jungle to take pictures of giant flowers or lizards or crumbling stone walls seemed less and less attractive the more they discussed it. So they stayed on the beach. But now? The morning was deceptively cool, with a breeze coming in off the water; she knew that it must be hard for Jeff to remember how humid the day would ultimately become.

Excerpted from The Ruins by Scott Smith Excerpted by permission.
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Ruins 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 295 reviews.
Josh27 More than 1 year ago
I am conflicted about this book. It truly was a page turner and Scott Smith can write circles around most so called best selling authors, but in the final analysis this book did reach my expectations. Having traveled to the Yucatan a few times I was expecting a thriller steeped in the lore and mystery of the ancient ruin sites (come on! Its titled "The Ruins!") but to my disappointment there is little local color in the story. The story could actually have taken place in any remote location. I also did not care for the evil menace, just came off hokey to me. I did enjoy how the author developed the characters each telling their individual story. The conclusion left me wanting though, too much gore with no point. If you are looking for a top notch thriller wrapped in the Mystery of the ancient ruin sites I highly recommend "A Tourist In The Yucatan" by Tim Brownsfield. Great book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The scariest book I have ever read! Couldn't put it down!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of the few novels that terrified me!!! I am never scared when I read horror stories, but this takes the cake! This is a slow novel, but should you stick with it, the wait will be well worth it! It is quite violent though so be warned!
TheBookWizard More than 1 year ago
I recommend this novel for horror lovers.  The same sort of inevitable dread that haunt's greats like The Shining, lurks in Scott Smith's writing as well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'll admit the only reason i read this book is because i found out the movie was based off of one. If you have already seen and liked the movie, you will LOVE the book. A lot of things were cut and changed in the movie, but the book is much better. Read it first. It's got adventure, gore, and that feeling of inevitable disaster because you know alongside the characters, they really were quite helpless from the moment they stepped into the vines. I only gave it 4stars because too much of it is predictable.
NatalieTahoe More than 1 year ago
I found this book absolutely riveting -- please don't be tainted by the movies that have come out like "Turistas" or "Hostel." This book is a complete study in the break down of a group of people that are trapped without enough food or water, and are being hunted by something that looks completely harmless. I read this book in a few days and could not put it down -- I haven't seen the movie yet, but I can assure you that if you put aside the movies out there like "Hostel" you will find this story absolutely creepy, and at times, incredibly moving.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought the Ruins was a good read overall. I am an avid Stephen King reader, but after being bored with his last book, I bought this book on recommendation of a friend who had seen the movie. I am very happy I took the advice. I couldn't put the book down. It kept my attention and kept me wondering until the end. Yes it was sad, yes it was not totally believable (it isn't supposed to be). The story idea was compelling and the writing was excellent. If you like horror stories you should definitely pick this one up.
lesen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
not a happy ending; page turner; pretty darn gross & violent!
bsmcnair on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Hated this book as I found the author to be overly fond of the characters' bodily fluids and waste. Without giving away the secret, I found the plot impausible with way too many questions left unanswered. The ending was contrived and very predictable. Rather than being suspense-filled, it was easier to count the ways how each character would make stupid mistakes with, ho-hum, tragic repercussions.
liberry on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really didn't enjoy this book, and if I could give it a negative rating, I would. It takes very little for me to suspend my disbelief when reading fiction, and yet, I couldn't buy into this book at all. If this book were a contestant on American Idol, it would be Sanjaya on ponyhawk night.
madams on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A page-turner until the very end!
moonshineandrosefire on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Six friends are exploring a Mexican archeological dig. What sets out to be a fun exploration of the Mayan ruins turns into a nightmare beyond imagination. I loved this story but it is not for the squeamish. It was the perfect horror story for me and I give it an A+!
saratoga99 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
After reading A Simple Plan, I patiently waited for Scott Smith to dazzle us with another example of his exceptional imagination combined with a page-turning, late-into-the-night read. Alas, what a colossal disappointment tortures us in his second ridiculously tedious effort, The Ruins.Touted as highly intelligent (after all, they are post-grad students), not one idiotic character in this wildly absurd contrivance deserves mention. It vaguely occurred to me that the architects of another equally banal, though distinct medium which captured a weekly television audience may owe Scott Smith a smidgen of legitimate credit for their innovative or serendipitous ingenuity in the creation of the series, ¿Lost.¿
irisdovie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book kept me going - it started slow then kept a steady pace of absolute horror until the end. I couldn't stop reading it - it was like watching a really bad accident on television and not being able to tear your eyes away.
sbenne3 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had high hopes and the beginning was great, but . . . . really, plants ???
labwriter on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the perfect, creepy, Saturday night read, but nothing more than that. In some ways, it's a lot like Stephen King's book, *Cujo*. King says in his book *On Writing* that he barely remembers writing Cujo, since it was during a time when he was drinking heavily. Scott Smith's book is one that would probably be improved by heavy drinking on the part of the reader. The only reason I read to the end was to see if Smith would allow any of his characters to survive. I won't "spoil" it for subsequent readers by revealing whether or not he did.The book drags on way too long. In fact, it might have made a really good short story. We know how it's going to end--how it has to end--but we keep hoping, or at least I did. Actually, I think I was writing "against" the story in my head, trying to figure out how I could make a good ending out of it. I think that kept me entertained probably more than reading the words on the page.
woodge on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a gripping story this was! This book is the closest to "un-put-down-able" I've come to in a long time. I raced through just over 500 pages in four days. Essentially, this is a classic horror tale about a group of young people who head off to some remote ruins within the jungles of Mexico and meet up with something chillingly evil. I was constantly wondering what would happen next. The story is told in a clean, spare style that's effortless to read. It's by turns creepy, suspensful, and gruesome.
kayceel on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
LOVED this! Terrific ¿ creepy and suspenseful! I read it in 6 hours¿
mollyduckpond on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found it rather predictable, but it was hard to stop because I wanted to know the ending!
the_hag on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Four friends, just out of college (two couples) vacationing in Mexico who have met up with a trio of rowdy Greeks (who speak no English) and a rather moody German whose brother took off in the middle of their vacation to pursue a girl archeological student...and the group (minus two of the Greeks) set out on a day tripping adventure to find the German's brother at some ruins in the jungle with just a hand drawn map. What they find is NOT what they bargained for! The first 50 pages were almost painful...the set up was slow going and didn't really do much to acquaint us with the characters, in fact, it was almost boring. Keep reading though, the pace does pick up. The rest of the book was fairly fast paced, with the exception of the whole mine scene...that drug on a bit as well. Also actual ruins (call a book The Ruins and I expect some actual ruins)...a square mine hole in the ground does not a ruin make (at least not to my mind) we got stuck with a boring vine covered hill and two tents, with actual ruins, this might have been even more suspenseful and the laughing and taunting at the end would have been far more frightening and effective in this instance I think. If this book were a "B" movie, it would be the low end, almost laughable kind. The gore is over the top, the characters are flat, one-sided and can almost taste the bad acting. The true nature of the "villain" here is never really dealt with, though in this particular case I applaud the author for not getting to the root (ha, ha) of the matter, as it leaves the reader loads of room to speculate WHY it is the way it is...sorry to be vague, but spelling it out would give away major plot points that are best left to the reader to uncover. So, why should you read this book? Well...BECAUSE it's that low end "B" grade quality that keeps you reading (or in the case of an actual movie, watching) with suspended belief, buying into the improbability of it all, wanting desperately to know how it all turns out, even when you know it's not going to end well at all. I couldn't put this book down, yea it was full of holes and places where you find yourself wondering WHY __________? The Ruins is also compelling and gritty and well, real in a way, the characters are flawed (boy are they flawed), stereotypical (a slut, a bi**h, a hero type, enigmatic foreigner, comic relief foreigner/sacrificial lamb type, and cute but mentally unstable guy), but there is something in them that we can all recognize of ourselves and we want to know how they play out their parts, how they end up and perhaps what that says about ourselves. This is one that I wouldn't actually recommend buying, particularly at hardback prices. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, but I wouldn't keep this in my permanent collection and I might even be slightly annoyed at buying after reading, thankfully I got this from the library and would recommend buying it used or doing the same. It's a wonderfully horrific way to spend a few hours; you won't be able to put it down despite your disbelief! I give it the solid B it deserves!
shejake on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was hard to put down. As Stephen King put it "The Ruins is your basic long scream of horror." Well put. I enjoyed it. I couldn't wait for it to end. And I immediately looked for something else that Scott Smith had written
KromesTomes on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wow.It's been a long, long time since I've come across a book that's as "un-put-down-able" as this one.Four recent college grads (two couples) are partying in Cancun as a last fling kind of thing ... among the people the meet up with is a German guy, who is on vacation with his brother. The brother has met a girl, who happens to be down in Mexico on an archeological dig. Naturally, when the girl leaves Cancun for the jungle the brother goes with her.And the other German convinces the couple and a fifth guy, a Greek who doesn't speak any English, to go looking for his brother. It's supposed to be some kind of adventure.When they get to the site though, they find a mysterious Mayan village and a pretty horrible situation that I can't go into w/o including spoilers.I can say that the book is absolutely gripping. When you consider this and A Simple Plan, I'm just amazed at how good Smith is at grabbing and holding your attention.Highly recommended.
adriel on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
From the author of A Simple Plan - You grow close to a group of college kids vacationing in Mexico who find themselves trapped on a hill covered in a strange vine. The vine begins to manipulate the group, the terror becomes horrific, I felt true disappointment and loss at many points, but I still couldn't put the book down.
fingerpost on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A well written book, that starts out very promisingly, but slowly degenerates into a very silly horror story about an intelligent, murderous vine.