I am so excited to have Carolyn Arnold here at Mystery Thrillers and Romantic Suspense Reviews with a Spotlight.
Thanks Carolyn and Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours for allowing me to join your City of Gold Blog Tour!
Please take it away, Carolyn!
City of Gold
(Matthew Connor Adventure Series Book 1)
Hardcover: 314 pages
Publisher: Hibbert & Stiles Publishing Inc (November 27, 2015)
Action-adventure books for the mystery lover. In this series, modern-day archaeologist and adventurer Matthew Connor travels the globe with his two closest friends to unearth treasure and discover legends the world has all but forgotten. Indiana Jones meets the twenty-first century.
Finding the Inca’s lost City of Gold would be the discovery of a lifetime. But failing could mean her death.
Archaeologist Matthew Connor and his friends Cal and Robyn are finally home after a dangerous retrieval expedition in India. While they succeeded in obtaining the priceless Pandu artifact they sought, it almost cost them their lives. Still, Matthew is ready for the next adventure. Yet when new intel surfaces indicating the possible location of the legendary City of Gold, Matthew is hesitant to embark on the quest.
Not only is the evidence questionable but it means looking for the lost city of Paititi far away from where other explorers have concentrated their efforts. As appealing as making the discovery would be, it’s just too risky. But when Cal’s girlfriend, Sophie, is abducted by Matthew’s old nemesis who is dead-set on acquiring the Pandu statue, Matthew may be forced into action. Saving Sophie’s life means either breaking into the Royal Ontario Museum to steal the relic or offering up something no one in his or her right mind can refuse -- the City of Gold.
Now Matthew and his two closest friends have to find a city and a treasure that have been lost for centuries. And they only have seven days to do it. As they race against the clock, they quickly discover that the streets they seek aren’t actually paved with gold, but with blood.
What inspired you to write City of Gold?
A while back, I was searching for an action-adventure book to read, and I quickly noticed that most stories in the genre start off at a point long ago in history with people who never enter the story again after an initial prologue. But I wanted to read something more in the vein of Indiana Jones, that started in the present day, with action right from the start that just keeps going. Who doesn’t remember the boulder scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indy is running for his life? Now, that’s what I’m going for!
You are primarily a mystery author. Why did you decide to write an action adventure?
I’m not sure whether I actually decided or was simply inspired. It is such a mysterious place, and people can’t seem to decide whether the city is fact or legend. The child in all of us wants to believe that a place like the City of Gold exists, but the grown-up in us tends to squash that curiosity. So when mine was piqued, I wanted to try my hand at going on an adventure along with my characters.
Many people have written about the Inca’s lost City of Gold. Why did you choose to write about it?
I chose to write about this particular legend because I find it absolutely fascinating! A city made of gold and treasure beyond imagining? How could I resist? I studied and researched to the point of obsession, and I even wished to be an explorer myself so I could set out in search of the city.
In fiction, the City of Gold is referred to by many names. The most common is El Dorado. But El Dorado actually referred to a ritual, not a place. Paititi is the true name for the lost City of Gold. Paititi translates to “city of the jaguar,” “all white and shiny,” and “white gold.” Many stories have emerged about the city and explorers have set out in search of it throughout South America, many losing their lives.
I examined the history of the city and explored the area on Google Earth. Plucking clues from different reference materials, I picked a spot where I think Paititi might actually be located. But who knows? What I do know is every story written about Paititi is unique and stands alone, and because Paititi hasn’t been discovered (yet?), there is a lot of room for play for a fiction writer.
What were some challenges you faced while writing the book?
As a mystery author who specializes in police procedurals, I found it hard to let myself go. With my regular genre, there are procedures that I need to follow. I need to know how real-life detectives and FBI agents would handle an investigation, how the forensics work, et cetera. So when it came to writing about what is, at this point, a fictional city, it was hard to open my creative mind. It almost felt like I had to literally discover the city in order to write about it. But with all the research and resources on Paititi—and some of it conflicting—I had to decide for myself what bits to incorporate into my story. I had to remind myself that I’m a storyteller, not a professor.
Tell us about the characters.
Twenty-nine-year-old Matthew Connor is the son of Toronto’s mayor, and while he’s educated in archeology, you won’t find him on excavations. His passion is hunting down treasure and legends the world has all but forgotten. While he feels the need to hide his true occupation from his father, this secret affects more than only him. Matthew’s two closest friends, Robyn and Cal, travel the globe with him and put their lives at risk to secure priceless artifacts.
What can readers expect from this book and this series?
This book and series is not your everyday action adventure. In fact, it’s been designed for the mystery lover. For example, in City of Gold, there is a kidnapping, a ransom, and a police investigation, as well as lots of action-packed adventure and exploration itself.
The series will follow that same kind of trajectory, with Matthew, Cal, and Robyn continuing to unearth treasures around the world. Think a modern-day Indiana Jones.
Does this book contain a special message for your readers?
Yes! I want people to believe again and realize that all things are possible. I want people to play more, explore his or her inner child, and live lives of passion and joy. When things are dark in our lives, what does it hurt to hope? Somewhere along the line of human history, it became foolish to believe in something without first seeing it with our own eyes. But what if we gave ourselves over to optimism and positivity? Maybe we’re afraid of being hurt or disappointed, but what harm does it really do to believe? I can speak from personal experience that keeping a positive attitude only added to my life and brought joy. While the end result to my situation didn’t bring happiness, it didn’t hurt any more because I held a positive attitude throughout the experience. In fact, I believe it even made miracles during that time possible.
So, if you’re looking for something to believe in, or if you just want to sit back and fall into an adventure, I encourage you to pick up a copy of City of Gold today.
Video on the painting for the cover:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
CAROLYN ARNOLD is the international best-selling and award-winning author of the Madison Knight, Brandon Fisher, and McKinley Mystery series. She is the only author with POLICE PROCEDURALS RESPECTED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT.™
Carolyn was born in a small town, but that doesn’t keep her from dreaming big. And on par with her large dreams is her overactive imagination that conjures up killers and cases to solve. She currently lives in a city near Toronto with her husband and two beagles, Max and Chelsea. She is also a member of Crime Writers of Canada.
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#1 EXCERPT FROM CITY OF GOLD, Prologue:
REPUBLIC OF INDIA
THE SOUND OF HIS THUMPING heartbeat was only dulled by the screeching monkeys that were performing aerial acrobatics in the tree canopy overhead. Their rhythmic swinging from one vine to the next urged his steps forward but not with the same convincing nature as did the bullets whizzing by his head.
Matthew glanced behind at his friends and was nearly met with a bullet between the eyes. He crouched low, an arm instinctively shooting up as if he’d drop faster with it atop his head. The round of shots hit a nearby tree, and splintering bark rained down on him.
“Hurry!” he called out, as he peered at his companions.
“What do you think we’re — ” Cal lost his footing, tripping over an extended root, his arms flailing as he tried to regain his balance.
Robyn, who was a few steps ahead of Cal, held out a hand, her pace slowing as she helped steady him.
“Pick it up, Garcia!” Matthew didn’t miss her glare before he turned back around. He hurdled through the rainforest, leaping over some branches while dipping under others, parting dangling vines as he went, as if they were beaded curtains.
His lungs burned, and his muscles were on fire. One quick glance up, and the monkeys spurred him on again. Not that he needed more than the cries of the men who were chasing him. The voices were getting louder, too — growing closer.
Robyn caught up to Matthew. “What happened to natives with poison darts?”
“The modern-day savage packs an AK-47 and body armor.”
Several reports sounded. Another burst of ammunition splayed around them.
“If we get out of this alive, you owe me a drink.” Her smile oddly contrasted their situation.
“I’ll buy you each two,” Matthew promised.
Cal ran, holding the GPS out in front of him, his arm swaying up and down, and Matthew wasn’t sure how he read it with the motion.
“Where do you expect to take us, Cal? We’re in the middle of a damn jungle,” Robyn said.
“Round here. Go right,” Cal shouted.
Another deafening shot rang out and came close to hitting Matthew.
“You don’t have to tell me twice.” Matthew ramped up his speed, self-preservation at the top of his list while the idol secured in his backpack slipped down in priority.
Most of their pursuers were yelling in Hindi, but one voice came through in English. He was clearly the one giving directions, and from his accent, Matthew guessed he was American, possibly from one of the northern states.
“I have to stop and breathe.” Robyn held a hand to her chest.
“We stop and we’re dead. Keep moving.” Cal reached for her arm and yanked.
Matthew slowed his pace slightly. “Robyn, you could always get on Cal’s back.”
“What?” Cal lowered the arm that was holding the GPS.
She angled her head toward Matthew. “If you think I’m going to get up there like some child, you are sorely mistaken.”
Matthew laughed but stopped abruptly, his body following suit and coming to a quick halt. He was teetering on the edge of a cliff that was several stories high, looking straight down into a violent pool of rushing water. He lifted his gaze to an upstream waterfall that fed into the basin.
Cal caught Matthew’s backpack just in time and pulled him back to solid ground.
The rush of adrenaline made Matthew dizzy. He bent over, braced his hands on his knees, and tucked his head between his legs. He’d just come way too close to never reaching his twenty-ninth birthday.
Robyn punched Cal in the shoulder. “Go right, eh? Good directions, wiseass. Maybe next time we’ll just keep going straight.”
“Sure, blame the black guy,” Cal said.
More bullets fired over the empty space of the gorge.
“What do we do now?” Cal asked.
Matthew forced himself to straighten to a stand. He hadn’t brought them all the way here to die. He’d come to retrieve a priceless artifact, and by all means, it was going to get back to Canada. He pulled off his sack, quickly assessed the condition of the zippers, and shrugged it back on. He tightened the straps, looking quickly at Cal and then at Robyn. One stood to each side of him. He had to act before he lost the courage. He put his arms out behind them.
Robyn’s eyes widened. “What are you doing, Matt? You can’t honestly be thinking of —”
Matthew wasn’t a religious man, but he was praying for them on the way down.
“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I want to thank you all for coming to celebrate this monumental find.” William paused to soak in the enviable applause. He definitely had a way of extorting the response he wanted.
After the clapping died down, he continued. “The Pandu statue is unquestionably one of the greatest discoveries of the twenty-first century. We are indebted to those who brought the Pandu here for us to appreciate.”
The statue was suddenly projected behind him on a large screen, the introduction to a slideshow presentation.
Matthew ran his hand along his jawline as he scanned the room. For the most part, everyone’s eyes were on William. All except for a few wandering and lustful gazes that traveled over him. A brunette, who appeared to have reached drinking age last week, sucked on her finger, the implication obvious.
Matthew returned his attention to the podium, even though it made him nauseated to listen to William speak about his discovery. If the man had any idea that it was because of his son — and his son’s two best friends — that this celebration was even possible, it might give him his third heart attack.
“If you have any questions about the Pandu, I am certain that the museum curator, Miss Robyn Garcia, would be happy to answer them. You can also ask my son, Matthew Connor” — he extended his hand toward Matthew — “who is an archaeologist.”
Despite the twist in his gut, Matthew lifted his glass in response, purely out of etiquette.
“Yes, well, without further pomp and circumstance, Miss Robyn Garcia.” William stepped to the side, clapping, and Robyn joined him on the podium.
It was the first time this evening that Matthew saw her. How he had missed her, even in a crowd, was remarkable. Matthew let out a deep breath at the sight of her.
She wore a black evening gown that complemented her tanned complexion. Her long, dark hair was straightened and slicked behind her shoulders and left to drape over her bare upper back. The dress was floor length with a slit on the left side that reached midthigh. Beads that sparkled like diamonds covered the bodice, and the fabric was attractively gathered where it cupped her breasts. She’d paired the gown with diamond earrings and bangles.
Robyn positioned herself behind the microphone and let her eyes trace over the crowd. If she was nervous about public speaking, it wasn’t evident. They met each other’s eyes, and her lips curved upward slightly. He was certain his mouth was gaping open and his expression resembled that of a goofy teenaged boy with a crush. It was a lot easier to see her as an equal when she was wearing khakis and boots, her shirt stained with sweat and her hair pulled back into a loose ponytail.
Robyn gestured to the screen behind her. “It truly is a remarkable gift we’ve been given. Thank you to William Connor for extending this celebration to his home.” She clapped, encouraging everyone to follow suit. Even Matthew found himself putting his hands together.
William dipped his head in silent acknowledgment and then waved, implying that it was no big deal.
And really, it wasn’t. Lauren and Daniel did all the hard work. Lauren’s primary charge was keeping the house tidy, and Daniel was the butler and property manager. At the end of the day, everything was their responsibility.
Speaking of Daniel, there was no sign of him. That was strange because he was the one who had led them to India in the first place. He was Matthew’s aid when it came to researching and picking expeditions. Maybe Daniel working for both father and son wasn’t the ideal situation, but it was what it was.
Robyn continued. “The Pandu is believed to date back to the third century. If you joined us at the museum earlier, this isn’t news to you, but the sacrifices that Gideon Barnes made to bring this to us are significant.”
“Is that why he’s not here tonight?” a man in the crowd called out. If Matthew remembered right, his name was Jacob.
No one was looking at him, yet Matthew felt under a microscope. Where was Lauren with more champagne? He always felt uncomfortable in these situations and was impressed by Robyn’s restraint in not letting her eyes drift back to him. She was a pro.
“Mr. Barnes regrets that he was unable to be here tonight, but he sends his love and appreciation.”
A man standing next to Matthew bumped his elbow. “The guy never shows up for his own contributions. If it weren’t for the artifacts and some pictures, I’d doubt his existence.”
“He might value his privacy,” Matthew said. And that statement wasn’t far from the truth. As for the pictures, Matthew had hired a man to be the face of Gideon Barnes, but it was to get his father’s backing, nothing more.
Robyn went on, providing more background on the Pandu. His mind wandered as she spoke. He was ready for the next mission. Time was too precious to sit around basking in past accomplishments. Life was about seizing the moment.
Matthew looked to the doorway and noticed Daniel standing off to the right. Daniel’s Norwegian gray eyes were locked on him.
“Excuse me,” Matthew whispered as he weaved through the mass of people to Daniel. Matthew handed his empty glass to the man.
Matthew directed Daniel to move down the hall and out of sight of their guests. “That’s not why I’m here, and you know it. You have something. What is it?”
Daniel considered their surroundings before responding. “One of the greatest legends, sir.”
Matthew’s heart palpitated, a natural and habitual occurrence when the prospect of a new adventure came calling.
IAN BRIDGES USUALLY TOOK PLEASURE in knowing what most others did not. In this case, he knew that the famous treasure hunter, Gideon Barnes, was none other than the mayor’s son. And it wasn’t welcome news. An interested third-party had hired Ian to get the Pandu statue back at any cost, but with it now secured behind bulletproof glass and the high-profile identity of its discoverer, the situation had escalated, leaving him with limited options for the object’s retrieval. Sadly, murder, although it was his gifted skillset, wasn’t a service required by this employer. And bribery presented too much risk and was certain to attract undesired media attention.
The crowd at the exhibit had thinned, leaving behind those who didn’t rank high enough in society to secure an invitation to the Connor mansion. Ian made his way toward the statue, his confidence building with each step. Yes, the situation certainly posed a challenge, but he had faith in his abilities. He wasn’t familiar with failing, and he wasn’t about to learn the lesson now.
The statue was enclosed in a glass cube atop a four-foot-tall pedestal. A red rope with brass hardware surrounded it, encouraging people to stand a couple feet out of its reach. The area was obviously off-limits. But he still considered stretching out to touch the glass. He’d love to smear his fingerprints all over it simply because its contents were so highly esteemed. It was treated more regally than some people were, and yet when he looked at it, he saw nothing more than an ugly man in a dress. Clearly burying an item in the sand for thousands of years transformed even worthless idols into sought-after treasures. What his employer saw in it or why it was sought after in the first place wasn’t information Ian required to do his job. Whether it was to provide bragging rights to its owner or to sell it or something else, he didn’t care.
“It’s beautiful,” a woman said. He turned in the direction of the sound and a woman in a black evening dress sidled up next to him. Her hair was a rich red and fell over her shoulders in flowing curls. Her fingers were long and adorned with rings, her wrists were slender and wrapped in silver bracelets. She also wore a silver cuff on her upper arm. Now this woman had a brand of beauty he could appreciate.
She seemed to assess him as he did her. “Where are my manners?” She positioned her purse under an arm and extended her hand. “My name is Veronica Vincent.”
“Ian.” He took her hand and was certain to make eye contact as he shook it. While some women might find the move too familiar and bold, this was the territory upon which he loved to tread. Eyes truly were the windows to the soul.
“Just Ian? Or do you have a last name, too?” Her seductive smile curved one side of her mouth slightly higher than the other. With it, her eyes narrowed marginally. Oh yes. This woman welcomed the attention and reciprocated his attraction.
“My friends just call me Ian.” He had to keep some anonymity. His line of work didn’t afford him the luxury of screwing up because he wanted to get laid.
“All right. Mysterious. I like it.” She slipped her arm through his.
They stood like that for a while, him watching her, her watching the statue.
“You think that thing is beautiful?” He’d come to learn that women found a controversial subject more entertaining than one that had him acting the yes-man.
“Absolutely.” She pried her eyes from the robed sculpture, letting them drift to meet his. “I take it you do not?” There was a small hitch in her eyebrows, and he knew he was in.
He shook his head. “Not in the least. They do say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course, but I am starting to wonder if we’re looking at the same thing.”
She pouted. He was scoring gold here.
“And while this statue is the most hideous thing I’ve ever seen, you, on the other hand, are very stunning.” He threw her an arrogant smile. He was due for a night of blowing off steam, and there was no better place to clear the mind than between.