Formats available: ebook
Series: Antiquarian Book Mystery, #2
Length: 208 pages
Date Released: August 26, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble
Michael Bevan is barely scraping by with his used bookstore and rare book collection when he discovers a timeworn journal that may change everything. Dating back to 1768, the tattered diary appears to be a chronicle kept during the first of legendary seafarer Captain James Cook’s three epic voyages through the Pacific islands. If it’s as valuable as Mike thinks it is, its sale may just bring enough to keep his faltering used bookstore afloat for another year.
Then he meets a pair of London dealers with startling news: Adrian Hart and Penelope Wilkes claim to possess the journal of Cook’s second voyage. Is it possible a third diary exists? One which might detail Cook’s explosive final voyage—and his death at the hands of native Hawaiians? Together, all three would be the holy grail of Pacific exploration. But before Mike can act, the two journals are stolen.
Chasing them down will sweep Michael, Adrian, and Penelope across the globe—past a dead body or two—and into a very sinister slice of paradise. High in the Southern Alps of New Zealand, in a remote and secretive Maori compound, a secret rests in the hands in of a man daring enough to rewrite history . . . and desperate enough to kill.
This was a really wild ride from antiquarian bookselling to a lost shangri-la in the wilds of New Zealand, by way of a very creative interpretation of Captain Cook’s diaries.
The action never lets up, but the roller-coaster takes some surprising twists and turns as it hunts down the lost diaries of one of Captain James Cook’s senior non-coms; journals that could shed a great deal of light on Cook as a person, and especially what went so very wrong on his last and fatal stop in Hawaii.
But the left turn that takes antiquarian bookseller Michael Bevan torwards this dubious paradise begins with a trip down memory lane.
This isn’t Bevan’s first adventure; The Dirty Book Murder (reviewed here) introduces Bevan and his book shop, Riverrun. He’s trying to make a living as a book dealer in Kansas, and it seems to be satisfying to the soul, but not necessarily filling to the pocketbook. It’s hard to make a living selling used books when people don’t visit bookstores the way they used to.
He’s going through boxes in the attic, looking for something to sell, when he runs across an unopened box of memories from his days in New England, before his wife Carol died and he destroyed his legal career.
In that box he finds the weatherbeaten journal of Samuel Gibson, one of the seamen on Captain James Cook’s first voyage. If it can be authenticated, it’s a treasure that will save his store. So off he goes to an antiquarian booksellers’ convention in San Francisco, where he finds that his journal is one of three, and then he loses it to a thief.
So much for saving his store.
It’s not until he’s gotten so desperate that he’s ready to pick his law career back up that the opportunity to retrieve his property, and maybe solve the mystery of Captain Cook’s fatal voyage, drops into his lap.
If he’s willing to drop everything and go to a remote and nearly inaccessible patch of the South Island of New Zealand, he might find everything he’s been searching for.
Or one of his untrustworthy partners might get him killed.
Escape Rating B-: The place that Bevan ends up reminds me of a cross between Lost Horizon and Lord of the Flies. The journals have come to a beautiful and remote place that has been taken over by the worst kind of thugs. The question he ends up having to solve is why. Not to mention how and most importantly, who benefits from all this mess?
The mystery is way more about Captain Cook than it is about the books. The journals serve as a catalyst for the action, but in the end it doesn’t matter who gets them; the real mystery is something else all together, and it’s much more deadly than any stain that might attach to Cook’s reputation if the contents are revealed.
Cook is long dead, but the man holding the last journal and the people who have been attracted to his vision of a return to the natural Maori lifestyle are alive, at least at the beginning.
The story seemed more like an adventure tale than a murder mystery, but there is plenty of action to keep the reader guessing about whodunnit. Also about who done what? There’s way more going on than meets the eye.
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