cover image The Lost City

The Lost City

Henry Shukman, . . Knopf, $24.95 (321pp) ISBN 978-0-307-26694-1

Shukman, a British travel writer and poet, weaves together political intrigue, passionate romance and personal discovery in a visceral and lush debut. Jackson Small is a traumatized 21-year-old discharged from the British army believing himself responsible for the death in Belize of buddy (and occasional bedmate) Connolly, who is mortally injured when the two are ambushed by Guatelmalan rebels while on a training mission in the jungle. Grief-stricken, he embarks on a penitent quest to find La Joya, the lost center of a vanished Peruvian empire that Connolly claimed to have glimpsed in the cloud forest between the Andes highlands and the Amazonian lowlands. As his adventures unfold, Jackson intersects with a remarkable cast: an orphan boy who saves his life; a world-weary British consular official right out of a Graham Greene novel; a former American Peace Corps volunteer living off the grid with two wives; a warmhearted priest trying to bring Catholicism to villagers; a vicious drug lord; and free-spirited Sarah, who calms Jackson’s soul and claims his heart. Shukman’s forbidding landscapes and fearsome jungle labyrinths are as striking as his characters, cranking up the intensity of a cinematic page-turner that echoes Greene and Conrad. (Feb.)