Debut author Riensche presents a 21st-century high-seas mystery woven from a series of flashbacks.
Riensche’s tale follows three slack-jawed sailors as they attempt to circumnavigate the continent of South America. Most of the book’s action comes via flashback as the rakish trio shares their individual narrative memories during what is mostly an uneventful voyage. Irrepressible Capt. Blake recounts wistfully how his greatest love (a storybook marriage) went awry thanks to seemingly unavoidable criminal dalliances, whereas the less cocksure Malcolm tries to unravel his feelings concerning a romantic entanglement strangely accented by the disappearance of an important family member. It’s seasick writer Iván, though, who boasts the tale most befitting of this book’s subtitle—he was once kidnapped in the middle of the night by the devious El Segundo, a shadowy pirate figure most folk assume is nothing but legend. At first, the novel’s breezy tone and erratic timeline don’t feel like they’re building to much, but Riensche does a fine job bringing all the fragments of these initially separate plots together for a satisfying, engaging conclusion that will keep readers glued to the pulp. Riensche makes up for his occasional use of hackneyed dialogue with his vivid descriptions of the exotic landscapes his characters inhabit. There’s also a sprinkling throughout of fascinating practical knowledge for survival situations; for example, a reader learns to use his foot, not his shoulder, to break down the locked door of a nefarious sea-faring scallywag.
Fitting escapism that pays off in the end despite the general meandering tone.