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The Summer Pages:  Books for the Beach

Deadly Deception by Susan P. Mucha
Hardback 288 pages. $24.95
Harbor House (
Augusta, Ga.) 2005

Reviewed by Jan Merritt

        “We have a man down at Augusta National,” the officer in charge snapped into his phone. “White male on path overlooking the 13th hole.” The Masters, smuggled Peruvian artifacts, the cocaine trade, unsolved murders, and romance … Deadly Deception is a good fit for anybody’s beach bag. Susan Mucha launches her tale at the Augusta National Golf Club, then deftly sends her readers chasing clues through the narrow, congested streets of
Lima and the graveled hairpin turns of the mountainous countryside, settings with which she is obviously familiar.
        Deadly Deception is a first novel for Susan Mucha, but her full life up to this point provides the details that make the story real in settings few of us have encountered firsthand. The novel’s main characters are Elia Christie, freelance journalist, and Dr. Luis Eschevarria, an internist in private practice. Both have family ties to
Peru. Our author herself was an emergency room nurse and has visited Peru numerous times with her husband Edgardo, a doctor. In addition to her medical background and her exposure to Peruvian life, Ms. Mucha has years of journalistic experience in a variety of Catholic, medical, and regional publications. She is the mother of four grown children, a resident of Augusta, Ga., and Kiawah Island.
        Elia Christie and Luis Eschevarria have never met until the murder at Augusta National brings them together. A note on the dead man’s body connects the murder to a deadly soccer stampede ten years earlier in
Lima. Elia and Luis depart together in haste for Peru. She is following a story; he is trying to figure out the connection between a pathology case he had ten years ago in Lima and the murder at the Masters Tournament.
        Susan Mucha’s writing is at its best when the action takes off, and that does not take long. She keeps Elia and Luis on the move, sometimes in fast cars whose “blasting horns warned oncoming motorists that drivers were racing through yellow lights,” sometimes on foot as they scramble for their lives amid the bins of ancient bones in the pitch dark catacombs beneath the “oldest church in the Western Hemisphere.” We meet Elia’s brother Raf, who is a priest with a sense of humor. We meet the local cops and politicians, one of whom takes Elia and Luis to his country estate in “the dry, brown mountains. The road was one curve after another, reaching the edge of a cliff, then turning back sharply before the car could dive off into the Pacific hundreds of feet below.” Even as the cast of characters grows, Ms. Mucha keeps us straight; we know the good guys from the bad guys, don’t we? We glimpse Latin politics and power, intertwined from the peasants up to the president with greed, drugs, and the looting of priceless national treasures from archeological sites. We start to feel comfortable among the “faded pastel-painted buildings set close to the road … where the doors on most of the buildings opened directly onto the sidewalk.” We find ourselves longing for the comfort of the kitchen in Elia’s grandparents’ home where Raf sets “two pans of hot, gooey rolls … on the marble-topped table … with sweet dough, baked with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon.”
        Deadly Deception can go to the beach with your teenaged daughter or stay at home with her grandfather. Susan Muccha gives us a plausible tale that moves quickly in a well-drawn, unusual setting and holds our interest without graphic violence or sex. This is a book that won’t stay long in the beach bag, or on the wicker table on the porch, or next to the bed in the guestroom, and for those who agree, Ms. Mucha is at work on a sequel.




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