In Cooper’s (Riders of the Tides, 2013) second thriller featuring tribal forester Earl Armstrong, a wealthy man resorts to murder and kidnapping to find an ancient mask on an island off the Washington coast.
While volunteering for the Pacific Northwest section of the Miyako Project, an organization created to help clean up debris from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Earl finds a corpse in the surf. An autopsy suggests possible homicide, and Earl realizes that the dead man, Will, may have been killed on Destruction Island, a marine reserve. Will’s brother, Leon, has the same suspicion, and after strange men spot Leon on the island, someone tries to blow up his boat. It turns out that billionaire antiquities collector Juno Betar is searching for a ceremonial mask hidden in a cave on the island. Earl has “vivid dreams” involving his great-grandfather, Christian Zauner, the island’s first lighthouse keeper, and in one of them, he witnesses the discovery of the mask in the late 19th century. Once Juno learns that Earl may know the mask’s location, the forester and his family become targets. Meanwhile, a Japanese woman named Norika Edo is looking for a ship’s escape pod, lost during the tsunami. The pod contains her husband’s body, but it turns out that yakuza gangsters are after something else in the vessel—a small fortune in diamonds and bearer bonds. Cooper’s novel boasts suspense with a touch of mysticism, along with exciting scenes of chases, murders and kidnappings. Norika and her team’s hunt puts them in the same vicinity as the other characters, but their plots don’t converge until near the very end. Overall, the story of Earl and Juno is more riveting, as Norika’s tale isn’t as fully developed. Still, both stories have memorable moments, as when yakuza boss Yuri Matasuba reminds Norika of her husband’s debt, leaving her with fewer fingers; and when other characters undertake an aquatic attack in underwater caves. Along the way, Cooper also adds nice, spoiler-free references to Earl’s first adventure.An exhilarating thriller that will have readers demanding another sequel.