A terse, fast-paced debut thriller novella in which the lure of an 18th-century shipwreck’s gold brings out the worst in a motley crew.
Police chief Ben Simpson shakes his head when he faces another drowning in the small beach-resort town of Blackpool, Del.—another victim drawn to the siren song of sunken treasure. The H.M.S. Nymph, a British warship carrying a hefty cache of gold coins, has been attracting fortune hunters ever since it sank off the coast in 1733. Seventeen seekers are known to have died so far, and now another has just washed ashore. Locals frequenting the Nymph bar say the namesake wreck is cursed; even an expert on coastal erosion, Dr. Stephen Jackson, saw his reputation hexed when his Discovery Channel expedition turned up nothing but sand. However, when local reporter Amanda McCartney learns that her colleague, Kyle Ferguson, holds the key to Dr. Jackson’s miscalculation, she concocts a plan. Amanda sings her own siren song, using her bewitching sexuality to lure the two men—and Tony, a former diver boyfriend from Miami—to the shipwreck. She isn’t fazed by the fact that her ex-boyfriend and his pal Ike are also drug lords; she sees their ruthlessness as just a variant of her own. Despite the story’s brevity, Flood shines as he infuses each of his distinct characters with flawed, complex personalities: Tony and Ike are thugs, but they have plans for their futures, while the Blackpool contingent mingles their greed with philanthropic dreams. The unlikely crew heads out to the coordinates where they suspect the shipwreck lies. When Tony and Ike bring up what appears to be the treasure, Amanda thinks, “This is as close to heaven as I will ever get”—a telling observation from a siren whose nature is, after all, to lure men to a bad end. Conflict arises soon enough, as the team members argue over whether to announce the find or launder the gold in secret. Homeric sirens were said to live only until a mortal man could hear their song and pass on by, but whether the story remains true to myth—when Kyle literally jumps ship in the night—is for the reader to discover. The book’s epilogue adds an unexpected, wistful note to an otherwise hard-edged plot.
A tightly written, enjoyable seafaring thriller.