Review: Lost City of the Monkey God

by Douglas Preston
Grand Central Publishing, 2017

In the vein of Matthiessen’s Snow Leopard or Strayed’s Wild, Douglas Preston brings readers to a place beyond roads in Honduras. Preston joins filmmakers, archaeologists, staff from the Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History (IHAH), and a cadre of machete-wielding trailblazers and security guards on a quest for vanished treasure left by a civilization that thrived before Columbus or Cortés set foot on the continent.

Riveting snippets of culture, history, and contemporary political economy are deftly braided with on-the-ground details: torrential weather, venomous snakes, and howling monkeys. In a race against the forces of deforestation and narcotrafficking, the expedition uncovers more than they’d dreamed possible. Along with stone ruins and sophisticated temple carvings, they encounter an invisible virus that will eventually afflict at least half of the expedition team. As with the best nonfiction, Preston’s story takes a surprising turn into a labyrinth of ethnobotany, epidemiology and cutting-edge medical treatments. Highly recommended true adventure.

Torrey Douglass