Interest Level: Adult
A struggling rare books dealer heads off to New Zealand to recover a lost journal about Capt. James Cook and finds intrigue and murder. What a great premise! The second in the Rare Book Mystery series, this title introduced me to Michael Bevan, a disbarred lawyer struggling to make ends meet in a Kansas City bookstore. He rediscovers a manuscript that turns out to be the journal of a member of Captain Cook’s crew. Eager for a profit, he shops it around book buyers until it’s unexpectedly stolen. With a beautiful but marred colleague, he picks up the trail in the south island of New Zealand, where we are immersed in traditional Maori culture, unexpected violence, and a very modern terrorism plot. I tried to like this one, but found myself rolling my eyes a few too many times. Shawver’s writing can be brilliant – I loved the tactile imagery touched with gentle foreshadowing of “The driving rain had turned to sleet, making a sound like the fingers of a skeleton drumming against the beveled window panes” (p. 63). But his overuse of foreshadowing became an annoyance, and his efforts to provide comic relief with smart-assed jokes felt awkward and flat: “… the ugliest devil I’ve ever seen, with the possible exception of Dennis Rodman.” “Pardon?” “Never mind.” I enjoyed his almost sensual descriptions of the gorgeous New Zealand scenery, and shuddered at what I consider to be truly horrific detail of a violent clash. But an incident of accidental cannibalism is largely ignored, the terrorism plot is both heavy-handed and comes out of nowhere (Bevan is immediately suspicious of a group of Chinese workers he spots – really?), and I found it difficult to like any of the characters. This one will appeal to those who don’t mind violence and enjoy adventure-filled mysteries with flawed heroes – think Indiana Jones with a less likable Indy, perhaps directed by Tarantino. My thanks to NetGalley for the advance reading copy.
More discussion and reviews of this novel: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20945516