Rutland’s debut is the first volume in a Native American-themed, treasure-hunt series aimed at young adults.
Three young brothers—Joshua, Gabriel and Nathanael—discover they are the latest players in a multigenerational adventure centered around a summer camp on Chautauqua Lake in western New York. The intrigue begins when the camp’s founder, saintly old Chief Ohneka of the Kinzu people, dies and leaves behind clues to the whereabouts of the fabled Kinzu treasure. The boys want the treasure in order to preserve their beloved summer camp, the enigmatic Odok Wil is playing his own game and Alexander Pearlman (a villainous investment banker) believes the Kinzu stole the treasure from his ancestor and wants it for himself. The size and determination of the adult-world forces gathering against our three young heroes are offset by the aid they receive from Swiz—a spirit guide in the form of a large, bossy owl—who leads them to various clues and, in typical owl fashion, always seems better informed than everybody else. With an overabundance of whimsy, the book’s genesis as a campfire shaggy-dog story is still visible at many points in the narrative, and the plot’s dwelling on the details of this one beloved summer camp are a bit too exclusionary (it will come as no surprise that the author has cherished memories of summer camp on Lake Chautauqua). But such limitations belie the book’s true strength; its charming, then-what-happened storytelling. Rutland’s prose is clear and often slyly comic, and he keeps the plot bubbling along. Pencil illustrations by David E.J. Varker add to the old-fashioned adventure-book feel.
Read in silent solitude, the book tests readers’ patience, but when read aloud, at a relaxed pace, preferably with children present, it reveals some genuine magic.