cover image Hell’s Gate

Hell’s Gate

Bill Schutt and J.R. Finch. Morrow, $26.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-241252-2

Vertebrate zoologist Schutt (Dark Banquet: Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood-Feeding Creatures) makes his fiction debut with an exceptional crypto-zoological thriller, coauthored with the pseudonymous Finch, a painter and cave explorer. In 1944, U.S. Army Capt. R.J. MacCready, a zoologist, travels to Brazil on a mission to investigate a Japanese submarine, large enough to transport three bombers. The vessel was abandoned by German forces deep in the jungle near Hell’s Gate, the mysterious region where Col. Percy Fawcett and his team vanished during his search for the fabled City of Z in the 1920s. Meanwhile, some strange creatures, known to the natives of the target area as chupacabra, have begun picking off German soldiers. The biological basis for the monsters is solid, and the unusual effect they have on the minds of their prey is a plausible extrapolation from known species. The authors adeptly balance science and suspense, and a detailed afterword lays out how much of the story line is based in history. Michael Crichton fans will be pleased that the ending leaves room for a sequel. Agent: Gillian MacKenzie, Gillian MacKenzie Agency. (June)