A Scottish lad flees his home in pursuit of treasure that promises to relieve his family’s penury forever.
Almost 14, Christopher Robertson lives in dire poverty with his family on the Shetland Islands in 1842, in debt like everyone else to the landowner, a smuggler. When Christopher’s brother seemingly betrays him by framing him for a crime, Christopher embarks on a journey that first lands him in prison and then eventually leads him to America on a treasure hunt. The danger-filled adventure plot allows Burack plenty of room to elaborate on the setting, politics, and social conditions of this particular bit of “Old Country”–immigrant history. Readers may sense that Burack is ultimately more interested in that history than the story itself, as some side characters are shirked and the plot swerves and hiccups (for instance, the passage from Scotland to New York is never remarked upon). The light spattering of Scottish brogue is also, at times, awkward. Still, Christopher’s escaped-felon partner is memorable, and his encounters with an up-and-coming future Boss Tweed tantalize. An appendix fleshes out historical details, and a closing bibliography provides authority.
Despite thin spots, Burack’s story moves at an engaging clip with enough thrills and historical detail to please many readers. (Historical fiction. 9-12)