Cover Image: House of Jaguar

House of Jaguar

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Member Reviews


Having spent my youth in Guatemala during the time this book is set, I had a personal interest in reading this story. 

I wanted to love it. It had much potential, but I didn't. The detailed description of the Mayan jungle was lovely but could've been trimmed. For about 50% of the book, I just wanted to be over. There's just so much one can read about the jungle and every single detail around it. When the story finally picks up it goes too fast leaving many unanswered questions and it suddenly ends. I wish the author would've spent more time on the second part of the book, where all the action happens. 

The characters are interesting, but it was hard for me to really care for anyone. Individually, they all work, but together there is something blurry and missing. Especially about Lyman. Even though the background story resounds true (the DEA's involvement with the military, the massacres, armed soldiers walking around, constant checkpoints), there were some discrepancies that bugged me. Small things, still irritating. There is no fine white sand in the Pacific Ocean in Guatemala, for example. The sand is black and coarse. Volcanic sand, unique to this area. I couldn't focus on what else was happening at the same time because I was annoyed by the inaccuracy of that detail. The author tries to include some Guatemalan words here and there and they are a hit or miss. Gallo beer is just Gallo, not El Gallo. I know I'm being petty, but still. For those who are unaware of those details, they may find the book more enjoyable. It's a good thriller. 

Despite my complaints, the story is compelling and worth reading, if one is interested in historical fiction, and the horrors that happened (some of it still happening) for 30 years in Guatemala. 

I received this copy of House of Jaguar from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Wow. I read other reviews and was prepared to dislike the book. I was so wrong to prejudge it - it was wonderfully crafted. The tempo was always changing, and I felt as thought I was in a Thompson piece at times. The raw, honest detail painted a picture I'll never forget.
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House of the Jaguar is a fast paced action-adventure read.  Taking place for the most part in Guatemala, our views are from two very different Americans, both VietNam veterans. 

Murphy comes to us from a good heart.  A pilot of fixed wing and helicopter, he is  making his absolute last midnight pick up of pot in his Aztec to a jungle setting in Guatemala, when both he and his partner Johnny Dio take fire from the Coban Armed Forces Command, and both the 1,500 pounds of pot and $135,000 in well used smaller bills are burned up during the firefight.  With the help of many locals, Murphy begins making his way north, trying for Mexico. He is unarmed and has a compound fracture of his right arm, is afoot with only one shoe and the only survivor.  Hot on his trail are Lyman and the Guatemalan Military Army and the Coban Armed Forces Command, both on the ground and by helicopter, and they are all willing to kill natives if they suspect they have helped the pilot in his escape.  There is a nightmare of drug use in the middle of this novel, and the ending is not what you will expect.  

Lyman has already crossed into Hell on Earth.  His wife is cheating on him, he's trying to quit smoking. His only mission at the moment is to get Murphy for killing his friend Kit Gallagher at the pot exchange site, and his conscious isn't a part of his mental makeup.  Lyman is almost too bad, at times.  

I enjoy Mike Bond novels.  This one had a bit more sexual content than I am comfortable with but the story is tight and the pace is quick. His description of the jungle, the villages these protagonists pass through and the native people who inhabit them are lyrical.  

I received a free electronic copy of this novel from Netgalley, Mike Bond and Mandevilla Press in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me.
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I loved this book. I enjoyed the suspense.  I really liked Joe.
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I have found that I just generally don't enjoy Mike Bond's writing.  This one was the best of the bunch.  It follows CIA operative Joe Murphy as he gets caught up in the South American drug wars.  He spends a great deal of time in the jungle trying to stay away from the drug gangs and stay alive.
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I tried a second book from This author and decided this is just not my type of book. The book is too long and became boring.  I did not finish it. I received this copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Unfortunately I do not feel its fair to leave a star review.  The premise sounds  fantastic, I requested it, I wanted to read it. Numerous attempts and I DNF.  I couldn't connect,  I tried, it would seem like I could and it would lose me.
I cannot provide pros or cons, DNF
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This was a tough one -- both to read and to review. I expected to love it, because geopolitical, espionage and military themes are among my favorites. But after many false starts, I finally had to force myself through to the end (largely because I was reading a free Netgalley copy and felt beholden to write a critique.) During the two months it took me to finish this book, I read 25 others straight through, and enjoyed each of them more.

I've lived on military bases and spent time in war-torn Guatemala, but the story never came alive for me because the characters seemed so shallow. While the writing was "pretty," the events were horrific, and it all -- in particular a gruesome rape and murder -- seemed like an adolescent male fantasy. It was my first Mike Bond book, and probably my last.
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Interesting story. The author had me hooked from the first paragraph. Will recommend to others
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This was a DNF for me twice. I first picked it up during a very low period in my life and kind of blamed my lack of engagement and distaste for the violence on my life situation. I recently repicked it up, 4 years later (sorry Mandevilla Press!) and still couldn't get into it. I must thus conclude that while I still think it intriguing, this book was just not for me.
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House of jaguar  by Mike Bond. 
A tense, exciting thriller of CIA operations in Latin America, guerrilla wars, drug battles and genocides, based on the author’s personal experience as a journalist there. Shot down over the Guatemalan jungle with a planeload of grass, Vietnam War hero Joe Murphy gets caught up in the country’s brutal Civil War, and in an attack on a Mayan village by the Guatemalan Army and its CIA “advisors”. Badly injured, he escapes on a nightmare trek through the jungle, hunted by the Army, the CIA, and death squads. He is healed by guerrilla doctor Dona Villalobos, falls in love with her and tries to save her from the War’s widening horror of insanity, tragedy, and death.
A good read with good characters.  Bit slow so 4*. Netgalley and author buzz.
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House of Jaguar by Mike Bond, is based on Bond's personal experiences as one of the few journalists to survive his assignment covering a civil war in Guatemala that was funded with American dollars. I know he must have seen some horrific and even traumatizing atrocities of war. Perhaps writing this novel was cathartic for him. I hope it was, but it was too graphic for me.

Bond does a superb job of relaying the truths about war, corrupt governments, and the accompanying atrocities, such as genocide and rape. We all know these things happen, no matter how much we hate the fact, but the graphic descriptions of rape and slaughter were nauseating.

House of Jaguar is definitely not a book for the faint of heart. Apparently, I am one of those folks, because I could not finish this book. I usually enjoy action/adventure novels, especially spy thrillers, but this was simply too realistic for my taste.

The story finds Joe Murphy, a Vietnam vet, trafficking marijuana in Guatemala when he witnesses an attack on a village by the Guatemalan Army. Their bullets shatter his arm, and he escapes through the jungle to a village that takes him in, and cares for him. He is treated by a guerrilla physician, Dr. Dona Villalobos,  who insists he must leave, because the corrupt army will torture him until he reveals the location of the village that helped him, and then will destroy the village and its people. Of course, he falls in love with her, and things really get dicy. It's a great story based on true events. Read it if you can handle the truly horrible aspects of warfare.

What Makes This Book Reviewer Grumpy?

The extreme graphic descriptions of horrific events. 
The use of incomplete sentences. Example: "No wider than his hand." and "Before him through the jungle." What was no wider than his hand? What was before him?

Look for me online as The Grumpy Book Reviewer.
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I received free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.  I have to be honest, I cannot get into this book.  I tried really hard, but I just can.  There is too much Spanish and it throws the whole thing off for me.  There is an over amount of descriptive language in parts that don't need it, and it just makes it hard for me to read.  This is supposed to be a book about the CIA and drug trade and the Vietnam War.  This is supposed to be based on his fictionalized experiences, if I could get into it, it might me good, but I just can't.
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I found this a difficult book to read as  the content was disturbing. I realise that it is based on fact but found some of the scenes distasteful and not what I really want to read about. Maybe a point of putting my head in the sand but .....It certainly gave me a perspective of the situation at the time.
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Murphy, Donna, and Lymon; these three are wrapped in an exciting tale that I think any thriller writer will love.  Mr. Bond has not started a series (YET!) so his stories are always fresh and appealing.

He can get a little preachy and his criticism of America can get a bit monotonous but you will like his style other than that,
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House of Jaguar by Mike Bond oozes testosterone.  It is a visceral thriller that combines elements of corruption, deceit, mass-murder, death squads, drug running, covert operations, torture, bravery, selflessness, nation building, and even a touch of love.

Murphy, former American military pilot, flies through the darkness in Central America on a mission to trade thousands of dollars for hundreds of pounds of marijuana.  Just as he is about to take off with his illegal cargo, his plane is ambushed.   Bullets fly.  Unable to save his companions, he escapes into the jungle, leaving behind a trail of blood.  He is seriously injured.  After a horrific journey through the jungle, he is rescued by a small band of indigenous people who offer food and shelter.  Soon, a lovely doctor arrives to treat his wounds.  Unfortunately, Murphy’s life will never be the same.  Lyman, a mysterious American operative, begins to hunt for Murphy with only one goal-to kill him.

The setting is drawn with such detail and clarity that readers will feel as though they are wearing a virtual reality headset.  Bond, obviously an expert on all the locations, leaves no meaningful detail unaddressed.  With total clarity, readers will hear the animals, see the constellations above, smell the vegetation, and realize the beauty of nature.   Bond’s mastery of language results in beautiful, graceful prose.

The complex plot moves with the speed of a runaway train and is sure to leave readers breathless.   The action follows Murphy through an epic journey as he heads home to America and then back to Central America again.   The plot trajectory is anything but a flat line.  Numerous roadblocks thwart Murphy’s plans at every turn.   Lyman and his henchmen continue to stalk him.  Only Murphy’s intelligence and military skills keep him alive.

Even though the two main characters are in direct opposition, they have more in common than one might realize at first.  Murphy is a sort of anti-hero.  Like Lyman, he kills people without much thought.   He does not hesitate to engage in nameless, faceless sex.  He transports and uses illicit drugs.  Some readers may wonder which character is the good guy and which is the bad guy.

Readers who enjoy war, and battles, and action will love House of Jaguar.  However, most of them will be men.  The average woman may be put off by the way Murphy uses certain women while claiming a mystical love for the lady doctor.   Derogatory terms that refer to women and sections that depict scenes of horrific torture may put off sensitive readers.

House of Jaguar is more than an adventure story.  It is an honest commentary on a cruel reality that afflicts Central America and its citizens.  It may serve as a wake-up call those who have been thus far unacquainted with the situation.
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Vietnam vet Joe Murphy is shot down in the jungle when flying a marijuana run with his co-pilot who is killed. Murphy is injured but manages to get away while they torch his plane. He is helped into a village where Dona Villalobos, a guerrilla doc helps him. She tries to get him on the river to Mexico with help and trying to not be discovered by those hunting him. They meet again and soon they are on the run together. This story gives you a look into the problems of Guatemala.
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While the House of Jaguar had the vivid descriptions and complex plot I have come to associate with Mike Bond's novels and the story was set against the backdrop of an actual historical event (civil war in Guatemala, drug smuggling, and CIA involvement in Guatemalan politics/military) like the other works of his I have read, this book was not as appealing to me.  The pace felt uneven and the book did not hold my attention well.  It had its moments early on, but did not really become good until about halfway through and this was not sustained.  If I had not agreed to review the book, I am not sure I would have finished it.  None of the main characters were particularly "likable" or people whose future one really cared about and some came across as whiny and off-putting.  The plot seemed disconnected at times, as if Bond knew where he ultimately wanted to end up, but was not sure how to get from "A" to "B".

I am glad this was not the first Mike Bond novel I read, because if it had been, I doubt I would have read any more and would have missed out on some much better books, such as "The Last Savanna" or "Assassins."
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The book started out very well but I could not get myself to finish.  I did get half way...decide for yourself.
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