Three fierce women. A ghost ship’s treasure. And a bone-chilling Caribbean warlord.
World War I rages. US marines storm Haiti’s Banque Nationale, loot $26 million in gold, then vanish. A century later, clues surface during the demolition of a Chicago racetrack, pointing to the Corazón Santo—the notorious triangle of Havana, Kingston, and Port-au-Prince. Three fierce, vibrant women reunite to hunt the treasure, hoping it will buy their survival from a long-buried, catastrophic misjudgment. They conscript a streetwise Chicago horseplayer’s help, then risk a return into the Caribbean’s mangrove jungles and mountains that have tried to kill them before. The uneasy partners are quickly swallowed in a terrifying labyrinth of shadow government and modern-day piracy where a final choice will be forced upon them: gold, survival, or redemption?
This is one of those blurbs that caught my eye and heaven knows I’ve certainly read my share of privateer, buccaneer, rastamon type novels, particularly with one of my favorite authors bent on finding a long-buried treasure. Right up my alley, you say? Maybe not.
There is the usual cadre of beautiful but savage women, all with a deadly history and somewhat shadowy history of CIA activities, as is the protagonist. The treasure is an old one, tied to an Al Capone legend. The protagonist, Bill Owens, owes money. Well, maybe not Bill Owens, but a partner, whose debt with the devil gets passed to him. He loves to bet on the ponies, but no matter the inside scoop or how he’s tried to study the sheets, just can’t seem to win. So yeah, there is that desperation for money.
Owens’ POV tends to bounce from current to 1986, recounting some history of how or why he got here. The narrative also switches POV to one or the other of the women (in first person). From the beginning it was obvious this was going to be a dark, gritty, crime noir reminiscent of some of the old radio shows (and that was the voice that kept speaking to me). While that might have been fun for us older generation, it became obvious very quickly that current day street language was going to be peppered heavily throughout. I’ve read plenty of books that bounced timelines before and don’t generally have a problem with them, but for some reason, these confused me.
The plot is a deep-dive into the murky and treacherous world of the Caribbean underbelly, particularly Haiti with political unrest and one despot overthrowing the previous landing the island into deadly bouts of disease and poverty as well as the wholesale gruesome death of inhabitants. And, as seems to happen in that area of the world, a hurricane. “Hide from the wind, run from the water.”
The treasure hunt begins with the discovery of a clue to the treasure’s location, but always written in such obscure language it would have taken more than a horserace champion or Rhodes scholar to puzzle it out. I did enjoy references to the different Caribbean islands (many of which were mentioned in said books by the other author). What I didn’t enjoy were the graphic descriptions of torture and mutilation.
The characters, including the antagonist, are not fully developed and I lost sense of them more than once as the women blended into one and the narrative veered from one clue to the next, each one resulting in a situation worse than the one before. It takes awhile to get into and at some point, wondered why anyone would think this was worth the effort, escaping one death-defying moment to tromp directly into the next. Seems the clues weren’t ever really going to lead to the treasure and I’m thinking, “Come on, already, find it or give it up.” Difficult for me to become engaged and no character with which I could invest. The conclusion remains dark and serves up the themes of loss, murder, gambling, rebellions, and inhumanity.
I was given this digital download by the publisher and NetGalley and appreciated the opportunity to read and review. My first experience with the author. There will be readers who find it a fast-paced adventure thriller but it just didn’t work for me.
Genre: International Mystery and Crime, Vigilante Justice
Publisher: Black Type Press
- ASIN: B084T5KM8V
Rosepoint Publishing: Three of Five Stars
The Author: Charlie Newton is a Chicago native, a writer known for a global life on the road and extended MIA absences. When he does publish, Newton’s heart-pounding, gritty, and witty realism has been a starred-review favorite of the critics and a finalist for the Edgar, the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, the Macavity, and the International Thriller Writers awards. Newton is the author of Calumet City (Simon & Schuster, 2008), Start Shooting (Doubleday, 2012), and Traitor’s Gate (Thomas & Mercer, 2015).
©2020 V Williams