Friday, August 31, 2012

An Excerpt from Masks of the Lost Kings by Tom Bane

Omnimystery News: Guest Author Post
with Tom Bane

Novelist Tom Bane's new adventure thriller is Masks of the Lost Kings (Telemachus Press, March 2012 trade paperback and ebook formats), the first in a series featuring archeologist Suzy da Silva … and we are pleased to provide an excerpt from the book today.

What if ancient tombs contained encoded knowledge of the stars and life on Earth?

What if the golden Death Mask of Tutankhamun concealed a latent secret?

What if this secret unlocked the mystery of the Mayan End Time?

— ♦ —

Masks of the Lost Kings by Tom Bane

Chapter One

 They emerged from the black, dripping jungle night already bruised and drenched from the hot rain of the Tumbala Mountains. Ben and José, his tribal guide, were making progress, but it didn't feel like it. In every direction unbroken jungle spread out around them in spirals of verdant green, impeding their every move, slowing down every step as it clutched at their limbs, trying to trip them up and hold them back. Something was following them in the trees above their heads. Ben guessed it was monkeys disturbed by the flames of José's Cahune palm torch and made anxious by this intrusion into their nighttime privacy. Mosquitoes patrolled in jerky circles, mounting regular painful attacks on their sweating skins. All around, the buzz of cicadas crested and receded like tropical ocean waves, making it hard to listen for any sounds of impending danger.
  Just like the heat, a sense of menace cloaked the ancient Mayan rain forest like a deadly veil. The gods had been starved for over a thousand years. Now they wanted a sacrifice. They demanded blood.
  The temptation to turn and run was almost overwhelming, but Ben knew he couldn't give up now. This search for a sacred truth was his chosen quest. If he could pull this off, his reputation as an archaeologist and astrophysicist would be assured. He would win his place in the history books forever. His hunger for the truth had led him inexorably toward this ancient prize, the captivating pyramidal Temple of Inscriptions. Beneath its stone interior lay the mysterious subterranean death crypt of King Pacal that Ben was risking everything to unveil. The tribal elders and survival experts he had consulted had all issued the same warning, telling him of the wet season's bloodthirsty mosquitoes, vicious horseflies and mud traps that could suck in a man up to his knees, or worse. Everyone said it would be best to wait until the place dried out in summer, but the lure was too great and Ben was too impatient. He couldn't risk waiting even for a few months and losing out to a rival. Inside this jungle lay a giant Mayan lost city, with a secret concealed for a thousand years, a secret that he now had the code to unlock.
  The sweet smell of orchids filled the hot, wet air and brilliant blue butterflies floated randomly past, like musical notes, suspended in narrow beams of moonlight.
  Ben's shirt snagged on the spiky tropical leaves, making him twist awkwardly. His foot shot out from under him, toppling him sideways. Suddenly he was falling through the air as if the ground had opened up beneath him. Grab something, his mind shrieked. Anything! A jolt slammed through him as his hand caught a tree root, halting his fall, while his left knee smashed into hard stone. Dirt and rocks were falling around him. His muscles screamed in pain as he clung on in the dark. He must be hanging over the side of a ravine but he had no idea how deep it was beneath his flailing feet. The root shifted in his hands as the earth began to surrender its hold. He glanced up, and a fresh shower of dirt stung his face. Above him was a sheer vertical wall of rock. He could see from the glow of José's fire torch that he had fallen at least twenty feet. He braced himself to look down; despite the darkness it looked like a fall of at least another hundred feet beneath his dangling muddy boots.
  "José, throw me the rope!" Ben shouted, his voice hoarse.
  Terrifying empty seconds passed before Ben saw the end of the rope just a few feet above his head. Letting go of the root with one hand he snatched at it, his fingertips glancing against it and then finding purchase. Transferring his weight, he felt the rope give as José struggled to hold him. There was no choice but to trust the man he'd only known for a few days. Letting go of the root with the other hand he started to haul himself upward. At the lip of the ravine, José braced himself against a rock to shoulder his young American employer's weight. A few minutes later, Ben was lying on the floor of the jungle, gasping for breath, his heart thumping, elated to still be alive.
  "I thought I was a goner," Ben exhaled, when he was finally able to pull himself to his feet.
  "Lets get moving, José, we've got work to do!"
  "No hay problemo, Don Sanders," José grinned, equally relieved to have avoided going back to his village to explain he had lost the important foreigner down a ravine. "Soon we see the jungle temples. We go around the ravine south, then along, and we are in Palenque soon, very soon."
  Pointing forward with the greasy smoke of his palm torch, José cut a swathe through the cloud of mosquitoes that had gathered. When he first arrived in the jungle, Ben had been stunned by its ecological diversity. But, since then, it had stung him, sucked his blood and dehydrated him to a harrowing thirst. Now he just wanted to claim his prize and get back to civilization. He shivered as a territorial howler monkey bellowed threateningly in the distance. José led as they forced their way through the undergrowth for another hour, every limp sending a wave of pain through Ben's badly bruised knee. Suddenly José halted and peered through the foliage ahead. Ben followed the guide's gaze and thought he could just make out unusual shapes looming into the moonlit sky about a mile to the southwest. Was this the ruins of Palenque? The colossal pyramid city some experts called the cradle of Mayan civilization? "Let me through, what is it, José?" Ben pushed him aside. "Are we here?"
  José dropped to the ground, lying prostrate, his torso pressed to the jungle path, peering ahead. Ben carefully knelt down to get the same view. From here, he could see a panoramic view of the stone plaza of Palenque, spectacular in the low moonlight, a ghostly hologram of ancient pyramids. Ben could hardly breathe with the excitement of finally being so close to his goal. As they stood up, the flickering light from José's torch illuminated the face that suddenly leered out of the foliage several feet beyond Ben's shoulder, making them both recoil in shock.
  "Shit!" Ben exclaimed. The giant stone skull loomed out of the undergrowth. José was transfixed by the stare of the black hollow eyes, overawed by this giant Mayan harbinger of death. "It's just a slab of stone, José! Ignore it," Ben instructed, eager to push on. "It's just a rock sculpture." Ben looked around. "José, we're here, we're finally here, the Temple of Inscriptions! Get over it, would you? Come on!"
  Mustering the last of his strength, driven by the renewed energy now coursing through his veins, Ben set the pace, racing toward the silhouettes of the pyramids, refusing to be slowed by the vines and trunks that twisted toward his limbs.
  His senses had gone into overdrive, heart pounding with another welcome rush of adrenalin, his footsteps eventually thudding across the plaza stones, his vision tunneling into the immaculate features of the step Pyramid, the Temple of Inscriptions. Now, at last, he was truly on the verge of a great discovery and had only to infiltrate the crypt inside for everything to be revealed. The pyramid seemed to glisten before him like a spectacular granite prize. He reached the foot of the grand stone stairway, the steep, carved steps stretching skyward. This was the awe-inspiring resting place of King Pacal.
  José crept up behind him, breathless and quivering like a frightened animal, terrified that his wild-eyed young employer was about to offend the ancient jungle's demigods and bring the wrath of the heavens down on both their heads.
  Ben knew that, from the start of the expedition, José had feared an ancient curse contained in the crypt would envelop and kill them, like the legendary Tutankhamun's curse. It had taken a lot of talking—and a lot of money—to persuade him to overcome these fears and lead Ben to this point and reveal how to get inside. Within a few hours José would be safely back with his family, furnished with amazing tales with which to regale tourists for the rest of his life. Ben had more important things with which to concern himself. He didn't need José's primitive fire torch, so he extracted his flashlight, handheld tally counter, compass, and a metal crowbar from his backpack.
  The crypt was locked but unguarded. After all, who would ever imagine anyone going to this much trouble to try to break in? If things went according to plan, he should be in and out in less than twenty minutes.
  A powerful wave of apprehension washed over Ben as he prepared to enter the pyramid, but he pushed it aside. There could be no turning back now.
  "I'm going in," he said, pointing his crowbar to the pinnacle of the pyramid. José shook his head and looked like he might be about to weep.
  "I feel evil spirits at work here, the curse of Pacal. My tribal elders warned me not to come. Please, please —" José's begging voice faded as Ben walked trancelike up the steps of the pyramid toward the flattened summit.
  The distant howler monkey let out another territorial bellow. Was it trying to warn them? Had the evil spirits awoken it?
  Ben's knee was sore with pain as he reached the top of the ninth and final layer of steps. At the summit he found the silent stone room called the Sanctuary. As he entered through the center of its fifth stone doorway, he was enveloped in silence, all the jungle noises suddenly evaporated. A cone of light from his flashlight scythed through the dark room and he shivered as he imagined the grotesque sacrifices that might have been made here, the torrents of blood that would have washed over the stones. Then he saw it …

— ♦ —

Tom Bane
Photo provided courtesy of
Tom Bane

Tom Bane grew up in England. He studied physical chemistry at University and went on to work in the energy industry before becoming a writer. The son of an engineer and a school teacher, he has always had a fascination for the interplay between science and beliefs, and these themes provide the backdrop to his novels.

He had the idea for the Suzy da Silva series one day in 2008 whilst out walking with his dog in Cornwall near Tintagel Castle. His first novel Masks of the Lost Kings took him over two years to write and research, visiting the ancient ruins of Egypt and South and Central America. He has since been busy on his second novel in the Suzy da Silva series, with more novels in the series already in the pipeline.

Tom appears regularly in the media and is highly rated by fans and booklovers alike. He spends his time living and writing in the USA, UK and Thailand. For more information about the author and his book, visit his website at

— ♦ —

Masks of the Lost Kings by Tom Bane

Masks of the Lost Kings
Tom Bane
A Suzy da Silva Adventure Thriller
Publisher: Telemachus Press

Following the sudden disappearance of treasure hunter Ben Sanders in Mexico, beautiful archaeologist Suzy da Silva is snatched from the cloistered environs of Oxford University and thrust into a deadly maelstrom of intrigue and discovery.

Joining forces with astrophysicist Tom Brooking, Suzy crosses four continents to unlock the dark secrets of Tutankhamun's tomb, the Holy Sepulchre and the mysterious Mayan Temple of Inscriptions to reveal a mysterious truth.

Together, they risk their lives as they are pursued by martial assassins and renegade Special Forces, fighting evil to uncover hidden knowledge so masterfully concealed and precious to have lain dormant for over three thousand years … Print and/or Kindle Edition  Barnes&Noble Print Edition and/or Nook Book  Indie Bound: Independent Bookstores


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