Jackson Small—barely twenty and just discharged from the military—sets off in search of something he cannot even be sure is real: La Joya, the lost capital of an ancient, vanished Peruvian empire. Traveling through South America, Jackson makes his way through desert, arid mountains, inhospitable villages, and impenetrable jungle, meeting several unforgettable characters, including an American woman who both redefines and fulfills all of Jackson's expectations. And though he's warned at almost every turn, he still enters the lethal forest that hides La Joya—where he will discover other searchers, with motives far more sinister than his own. With its lyrical voice, heart-stopping pace, and the audacious romanticism of the quest that fuels it, The Lost City is a novel at once suspenseful, unexpected, and thoroughly mesmerizing.
Shukman, a British travel writer and poet, weaves together political intrigue, passionate romance and personal discovery in a visceral and lush debut. Jackson Small is a traumatized 21-year-old discharged from the British army believing himself responsible for the death in Belize of buddy (and occasional bedmate) Connolly, who is mortally injured when the two are ambushed by Guatelmalan rebels while on a training mission in the jungle. Grief-stricken, he embarks on a penitent quest to find La Joya, the lost center of a vanished Peruvian empire that Connolly claimed to have glimpsed in the cloud forest between the Andes highlands and the Amazonian lowlands. As his adventures unfold, Jackson intersects with a remarkable cast: an orphan boy who saves his life; a world-weary British consular official right out of a Graham Greene novel; a former American Peace Corps volunteer living off the grid with two wives; a warmhearted priest trying to bring Catholicism to villagers; a vicious drug lord; and free-spirited Sarah, who calms Jackson's soul and claims his heart. Shukman's forbidding landscapes and fearsome jungle labyrinths are as striking as his characters, cranking up the intensity of a cinematic page-turner that echoes Greene and Conrad.