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44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazonian adventures and Mayan mysteries make for a dynamic debut!
I like the wild places of the world. Not in real life, mind you, but on the pages of a book I can't resist them. With his debut novel, Black Rain, Graham Brown has combined all the elements of a perfect adventure thriller--at least one written with me in mind. He's got the exotic location, the mysterious beast, the ancient puzzle, the cutting-edge science, and he...
Published on February 15, 2010 by Susan Tunis

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Easy summer read, no thinking required
This book is not bad, but I don't quite understand all the 5-star reviews. Semi-entertaining read with a flimsy plot and little-to-no character development. One part X-files, one part Indiana Jones, mix with a dash of Predator, and you've got yourself Black Rain. Buy it used today!
Published on August 30, 2010 by NWG


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44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazonian adventures and Mayan mysteries make for a dynamic debut!, February 15, 2010
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This review is from: Black Rain: A Thriller (Danielle Laidlaw) (Mass Market Paperback)
I like the wild places of the world. Not in real life, mind you, but on the pages of a book I can't resist them. With his debut novel, Black Rain, Graham Brown has combined all the elements of a perfect adventure thriller--at least one written with me in mind. He's got the exotic location, the mysterious beast, the ancient puzzle, the cutting-edge science, and he integrates all of these elements into a smart and thoroughly engaging page-turner. It's the kind of debut I absolutely love to see, and all I want from Brown is... more.

What's the story? Well, it's too complex to go into real detail, but basically the National Research Institute believes there's an artifact lost deep in the Amazon that may hold the key to a limitless source of clean energy. An expedition sent to search for it has to contend with hostile natives, terrifying creatures, and cut-throat competitors who will do anything to beat them to the discovery.

I'll admit that none of these story elements is especially unique or original. But Brown's novel is--for lack of a better description--just darn entertaining. And he does so much right. The plotting of the novel is nice and tight. I won't swear that all of his science is accurate, but it rings true. And based on the creature he creates in Black Rain, it's obvious he knows a thing or two about animal biology.

Finally, it's worth mentioning that Brown does an unusually good job with character development. And this is great news--because it looks like his central characters are coming back in his next novel, Black Sun. I can't wait!
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Silly, but entertaining thriller, February 19, 2010
This review is from: Black Rain: A Thriller (Danielle Laidlaw) (Mass Market Paperback)
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If you've read Cussler, Rollins or Dan Brown, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect going into the debut thriller from Graham Brown. In this twist on the popular historial treasure hunting genre, our heroes are from a secret government agency and their target is a an ancient source of power, possibly having to do with cold fusion.

So our intrepid team goes on their mission (where the team before them have all been killed) bringing together the thriller standards of the tough female leader, the snarky male co-leader with a checkered past, the hard mercenary and his team of cannon fodder as well as the linguist and two academics, one old and one young. They face the elements, a group of savage tribesmen that may not be as savage as they let on and of course monsters, lots of big scary monsters. Working against them is a greedy billionaire who has a mole on the team. Beside the setting, there isn't too much original about this somewhat bloated 500 pager.

Yet, despite this rather contrived setup, Brown manages to keep the action level and the interesting facts about Mayan culture coming fast enough to propel you through the book. Sure, you know right from the start who will live and who will die if you've ever read a thriller before, but hey, you aren't exactly expecting Eco when the cover has "A dark secret that kills" written on the cover.

This book is for genre fans and won't win any new converts, but Brown keeps things interesting enough that I will look forward to his next book, a promised sequel to Black Rain.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Amazon troopers, February 4, 2010
This review is from: Black Rain: A Thriller (Danielle Laidlaw) (Mass Market Paperback)
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At first glance, Graham Brown's Black Rain might seem to owe a lot to the Da Vinci Code or maybe Raiders of the Lost Ark. It is a tale of a hidden treasure deep in the Amazonian jungle, yet the most surprising influence is another novel/movie altogether: Starship Troopers.

The heroine of Black Rain is Danielle Laidlaw, an intrepid adventurer who works for an organization that acquires technological secrets for the U.S. through whatever means necessary. When an artifact dug up decades ago shows signs of tritium - a byproduct of hydrogen fusion - Laidlaw starts believing that an ancient Mayan tribe may have somehow discovered cold fusion.

Beyond hostile tribes and a dangerous jungle, Laidlaw and her team will have to face off against a ruthless competitor also after the secret. Getting to the site is only half the battle; the other half is fighting the deadly creatures within a strange monument. It is the battle against these creatures which is reminiscent of Starship Troopers. Certainly the movie influenced Brown, who named one character Verhoven as an allusion to the film.

Somewhere between adventure, sci-fi and fantasy, Black Rain is a decent, if not particularly memorable, debut novel for Brown. As a beach read, it works fine, as the story moves quickly and entertainingly. If you enjoy these sorts of treasure hunt stories, then this will probably be worth reading.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Easy summer read, no thinking required, August 30, 2010
By 
NWG "NWG" (San Diego, CA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Black Rain: A Thriller (Danielle Laidlaw) (Mass Market Paperback)
This book is not bad, but I don't quite understand all the 5-star reviews. Semi-entertaining read with a flimsy plot and little-to-no character development. One part X-files, one part Indiana Jones, mix with a dash of Predator, and you've got yourself Black Rain. Buy it used today!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Jungles, Pyramids and Action with a hint of Sci Fi, October 7, 2010
By 
Jason Golomb (Northern Virginia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Black Rain: A Thriller (Danielle Laidlaw) (Mass Market Paperback)
"Black Rain" is a good, fun read that nicely sets up a sequel without sacrificing a solid ending.
This book fits squarely in the realm of the lighter-weight Dan Brown-esque genre of thrillers. Leaders of this genre include James Rollins and Jeremy Robinson, whose stories are a bit formulaic and their characterizations often thinly built.

Graham Brown brings new energy to the genre. His core plot involves the Mayan creation myth called "Popul Vuh". In reality, this document has been handed down through history only due to the work of a Dominican Friar who, in the 18th century, made a copy of the Mayan legend rather than follow suit of most of his forebears who feared the devilish presence of another religious doctrine and burned almost all other native documents in the New World.

After having discovered several crystals that suggest the existence of a tremendous new energy source, a semi-secret non-governmental organization goes to Brazil to find their source.

Brown picks apart certain stories from "Popul Vuh" and develops historic explanations for their origins as his team of ex-military and researchers uncover clue after clue surrounding the origin of the crystals. The story contains government conspiracies, hidden jungle pyramids, helicopters and big guns, war-ready natives, and monstrous animals. It also contains a tease of science fiction which nicely sets a tone for the rest of the series.

Brown captures the texture of Brazil including the jungle-embedded pyramid and the centuries-old tribe that endures it's ancient lifestyle. Brown paces each new clue, each newly unraveled mystery at a solid and steady pace. There was very little plot disclosed without a reasonably good rationale. There was very little mystery solved without it fitting in well with the rest of the tone, texture and pacing of the rest of the story.

The story isn't deep enough to warrant a 4-star rating. But it's better than most supernatural thrillers I've read and I was drawn into the story enough to want to read the sequel, "Black Sun". If you enjoyed the opening sequence of the original Indiana Jones, then imagine a full books' worth of that style adventure and you have a decent preview of what you'll get.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Extraordinary Amazon Jungle Thriller, December 13, 2009
This review is from: Black Rain: A Thriller (Danielle Laidlaw) (Mass Market Paperback)
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Thrillers, for me, are strictly escape reading. Thus I expect formula plots, lots of action, and predictable characterization. But BLACK RAIN surprised me, over and over again, with unexpected but believable plot turns, well-drawn characters whose fates I cared about, and generally excellent writing.

This is a story about a secret, ill-fated, government-funded expedition to the Amazon jungle. The expedition, led by a tough female "researcher" (really a highly trained, highly paid covert government operative), seeks to locate a Mayan temple site that is probably sheltering an artifact that is capable of producing energy by cold fusion. Such an artifact would solve the world's energy problems, and therefore unlimited funds are available to the expedition. But the government's ultra-secure computer system has been hacked, and word of the prize has leaked to a corporate millionaire, who sends his own mercenary forces after the expedition and the artifact.

Adding to the expedition's danger is that a previous government expedition to the same site never returned. The expedition's members--all but one--were killed by the arrows of hostile natives, or by a beast that attacked so swiftly that it remained unseen, even as it carried its victims away, leaving only a swath of blood behind. For me, the "unseen beast" is nearly as terrifying as the beast in RELIC (Preston & Child).

However, the novel delivers far more than a series of descriptions of bloody dismemberments. The story is about the expedition, and the devious political maneuvering behind the expedition that is continuing in Washington, D.C. and other locations around the world. In carrying out her assignment, the female leader gets a lot of help from a disgraced CIA operative, a hardened mercenary soldier, an archaeologist, a linguist, and an archaeology student, so there are plenty of characters for the reader to identify with. Unfortunately, not all of these characters survive. The book contains lots of page-turning action, and the author uses Mayan mythology and Mayan mythological figures (such as Seven Macaw) with great skill in keeping the narrative from ever becoming boring.

Everything fits together--including the descriptions of Mayan mythology, and the final Mayan plot element that produces a wholly unexpected surprise ending. It's difficult to believe that this is Graham Brown's first novel, because it seems destined to become a mass market best seller. I absolutely loved this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rumble in the Jungle, December 17, 2009
This review is from: Black Rain: A Thriller (Danielle Laidlaw) (Mass Market Paperback)
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Okay, we're going to be deluged with Mayan thrillers for the next three years. As with any other genre... detective, horror, science fiction, or whatever... you have to judge a book within its category. Occasionally you will find a work that transcends the genre, and is a great book simply because it is great literature. But for the most part you have to ask yourself (when reading a detective story for example), "Is this a good detective novel?"

It became obvious as the story in "Black Rain" unfolded that this was an adventure novel in the "2012 Apocalypse" genre. An expedition is sent to Brazil to investigate some Mayan artifacts discovered by an explorer in the 1920's. But... the Mayans didn't live in Brazil. Or did they? Recent examination of some crystals indicates that they may have been part of a system for generating cold fusion.

So off our intrepid adventurers go in search of a source of clean power for our planet. There's a typical assortment of thriller characters here. The plucky woman in charge of the expedition. The rugged hero with a secret past. The grizzled mercenary. The sinister head of a government agency. Add in a mysterious native tribe, ancient legends, and some nasty monsters, and you've got a pretty good story going.

I liked this book a lot more than I expected I would. I was a little concerned about the size of the book (just over 500 pages). But it pulled me in and it was a very quick read. The story was fast paced, the characters were interesting, and the setting was exotic (as expected for a thriller of this type).

What I really liked was how the author took some of the legends from the Popol Vuh (the mythology of the Quiche kingdom in what is now Guatemala) and used his story to "explain the historical basis" of the myths. I have read a translation of the Popol Vuh, and I think the author did a bang-up job of taking an ancient text and turning it into an exciting science fiction tale.

Yes, as other reviewers have noted, this book starts out like a techno-thriller and gradually turns into science fiction. But that's not all that unusual. Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child do the same thing in almost all of their books. And I like Preston and Child, so I enjoyed "Black Rain" too. There's another saying about genre fiction: "If this is the kind of thing you like, you're really going to enjoy this book."

So back to my original premise... is "Black Rain" a good example of "2012 Apocalypse" fiction? Well, it's really only marginally in the genre, because it takes place "today", and isn't about the actual apocalypse. But I found it to be very exciting and entertaining, and in that respect I think it is a good example of the genre, and well worth your time.

And I suspect that there are more adventures in store for Our Heroes, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them back in the jungle in another book. After all, at one book a year, the author can get three more novels out before the world ends in 2012!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Covert operation in the Amazonian jungle plus fearsome creatures, December 12, 2009
This review is from: Black Rain: A Thriller (Danielle Laidlaw) (Mass Market Paperback)
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Black Rain is the first book by Graham Brown, and he is off to a rousing start. He gives us a covert US government expedition into the darkest regions of the Amazon in a search for a legendary Mayan city. Danielle Laidlaw is a young but experienced government operative who is in charge of a team for the first time. Her trusted mentor has been called back to Washington as part of a Machiavellian scheme by the director of the National Research Institute, and she is feeling slightly abandoned. A motley crew of scientists and mercenaries accompanies her on the mission. One of her key people is Hawker, an experienced helicopter pilot and ex-CIA agent who was drummed out of the agency for mysterious reasons and has found refuge in the Amazonian jungle regions. Through the course of the book, you develop an affinity for these people.

The secret purpose of their quest in the jungle is to find an ancient power source that could completely revolutionize modern day power generation. Of course, they are not the only ones after the power source. Another team, led by a wealthy industrialist, has the same goal, is much better equipped, and will stop at nothing to succeed. Add in the normal dangers of a jungle setting along with apparently unfriendly native tribes and you have the makings of an excellent adventure tale. Mr. Brown takes things a step further by introducing some of the most fearsome creatures since Alien. Our heroes are in mortal peril much of the time. These creatures are savage, almost impossible to kill, and are unlike anything else readers are familiar with. They are a great addition to the book.

I will admit that some of the book felt a little familiar, but the author does a great job moving the story along and his writing style is good. The story itself reminded me of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Also, if you want a nonfiction approach similar in feel, read The Lost City of Z by David Grann, an excellent book.

The brief description of the author in the back of the book says that he is currently at work on a sequel to Black Rain. That is good news.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A High-Tech/Calibre/Archaeological Novel Amazon Jungle Adventure, December 5, 2009
This review is from: Black Rain: A Thriller (Danielle Laidlaw) (Mass Market Paperback)
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I had been looking out for a rich Crichton vein in the jungle adventure story landscape. I found it in spades! The more I dug into it the richer the vein got until I found myself pleased to no end. For as the story has an ending, it also has a new begining, meaning a sequel w/even higher stakes!
Daniel Laidlaw is an attrative, young, and ambitious young women working for the National Research Institute. Their stock in trade is examing cutting-edge technologies that would be of interest to the United States. They achieve this either through relationship building, bribes, or just the simple: steal it.
Not only do they understand that battles are not won or lost w/weapons, but w/information; their competition does as well, and they employ likewise methods.
Soon "they" are looking at some stolen crystals taken from some digs deep in the Amazon jungle. Close examination reveal that these are filled w/microscopic lines running in geometrically precise patterns/almost molecular in size. They appear to function like fiber-optics w/specific wavelengths of light visible under polarized light. Not of a Mayan nor any other jungle peoples' capability.
Daniel is working for the specialized OpD division that is tasked to the sinister parallel side/the active gathering of industrial secrets, including those belonging to foreign powers. But it has become the privatized side that has emerged as the REAL competition (even existing within/government organizations).
Along w/ her experienced mentor/partner Arnold Moore she assembles a crew to travel into the Amazon jungle. She enlists the aid of Professor Michael Carter, a renowned archaeologist and his young student Susan Briggs; Williams Devers, a linquist; Mark Polaski, a communictions tech; Hawker an wanted ex-CIA operative whose missions attainment parameters were R.O.C. - Regardless of Cost/Regardles of Consequences; and Verhoven, a South African mercenary who says that when you show him a nation, he'll show you a war. These and others, including the pirates on the "other-side", will meet in the Amazon only to discover there is more under the heavens than you can even imagine.
So no matter what your massive parallel programs tell you, or your electro-graphic ground scan, or your EMP-Electro Magnetic Pulse, and the rest tell you/it is not enough. From the Mayans- who painted their civilation on the landscape to the Chollokwan who were diametrically opposite-leaving nothing but footprints, travel on an Amazon-Adventure that will have you standing in line for your next trip into the jungles of the unknown, simply because its just too good to take a pass.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED !!!!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hey - You Dipped Your SciFi Into My Thriller, December 3, 2009
This review is from: Black Rain: A Thriller (Danielle Laidlaw) (Mass Market Paperback)
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Any book that features a "shadow government agency" just sounds hokey from the get-go, giving the author an uphill battle to capture the reader's attention and trust. It takes "Black Rain" barely two pages before the first mangled body appears, and after a bit of requisite stage setting, the pace blasts off up from there. Our heroine, a shadow government agent, takes a team deep into the Amazon to find a mysterious power source that could become a breakthrough in cold fusion. The team thinks it's on an archaeology mission to an ancient Mayan site, which just happens to have a mercenary guard force along to quell the restless natives. They find their Mayan ruins all right, and a whole lot more than they bargained for.

The cover calls this book a "Thriller" and it is, but it's a whole lot more. There are heavy doses of suspense and some science fiction woven in as well. The nearest thing I can think of to compare this to would be some of Michael Crichton's books, but with more frantic action and less chit chat. There's plenty of dialogue, don't get me wrong, but no words are wasted discussing what the characters will cook for dinner or what their favourite TV shows are. I pick Crichton as a comparison because the thriller/sci fi mix is comparable, and also because he's very imaginative and his characters often do some highly intelligent things. Here, you get several "a-ha" moments, as separate threads come together in a very logical but unexpected fashion.

For 500 pages this is an amazingly quick read, mainly because it's hard to put down. The combat scenes are very believable, and the characters are well fleshed out and pretty witty when things get quiet. My one nitpick is having characters use a portable extreme low frequency radio; ELF radios are only portable if you don't mind dragging around a 20 mile antenna and huge power supply. Aside from that . . . for an established author this would be a great book, but a first-time author it's pretty incredible. This one is a must read!
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Black Rain: A Thriller (Danielle Laidlaw)
Black Rain: A Thriller (Danielle Laidlaw) by Graham Brown (Mass Market Paperback - January 26, 2010)
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