DRAKE'S COFFIN

A ZACH COLT ADVENTURE

Six boys embark on an adventure in the Panama jungle, encountering danger, death and loss in Urban’s debut novel. Several years later, they return as men to the scene of the grisly event that has bound them together for life.

In 1596, English adventurer Sir Francis Drake is buried at sea outside Portobelo Harbor, Panama, by his crew—but not before he buried a treasure of gold coins he’d stolen from the Spanish. Four hundred years later, a group of teen boys begin an adventurous hike along the original Camino Real in the Panama Canal Zone and discover the hidden treasure. They are led by their scoutmaster, hydrologist and explorer Robert Medvedic Sr., a World War II vet who is also rumored to have worked with the CIA. The diverse group includes an inept assistant scoutmaster and his marijuana-smoking son; a socially sensitive doctor’s son who is one of the few black American civilians living in the Zone; a high school football quarterback; a smart-mouthed troublemaker; a science-loving “geek”; the son of a career military officer who likes to bully others; and Zach Colt, a likable, level-headed boy who quickly becomes the leader when tragedy befalls the group. Although one might question how easily the boys’ parents release their progeny into the hazardous Panama jungle, Urban’s fast-paced adventure carries the story forward too fast to dwell on such matters. Time and again, the boys narrowly escape mishap, but just when it appears all will be well and the group will return home safely, disaster strikes again. Urban’s descriptions of jungle predators and the events that befall the adventurers are real and intense, indicating that much research was undertaken in the author’s story prep. However, some readers may be uncomfortable with the graphic details involved in the telling of events. The adventure continues in Part Two, as the now-adult scouts return to the site of their tragic boyhood experience to claim the treasure and close a grim chapter in their lives. Again, the tale gains momentum quickly, although at times a few of the men display adolescent behaviors that remind the reader a little too much of the boys they once were. A coming-of-age story and thrilling adventure rolled into one.

 

Pub Date: Dec. 13, 2011

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: IGTBA Enterprises

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2012

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

ONE GOOD DEED

Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

CROOKED RIVER

FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast finds evil afoot in his latest action-filled adventure (Verses for the Dead, 2018, etc.).

Imagine Florida beachcombers’ shock when they discover a shoe with a severed foot inside. Soon they see dozens more feet, all in identical shoes, bobbing toward the beach. Police and FBI ultimately count more than a hundred of them washing up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands' tranquil shores. Pendergast teams up with the junior Special Agent Armstrong Coldmoon to investigate this strange phenomenon. Oceanographers use a supercomputer to analyze Gulf currents and attempt to determine where the feet entered the ocean. Were they dumped off a ship or an island? Does each one represent a homicide? Analysts examine chemical residues and pollen, even the angle of each foot’s amputation, but the puzzle defies all explanation. Attention focuses on Cuba, where “something terrible was happening” in front of a coastal prison, and on China, the apparent source of the shoes. The clever plot is “a most baffling case indeed” for the brilliant Pendergast, but it’s the type of problem he thrives on. He’s hardly a stereotypical FBI agent, given for example his lemon-colored silk suit, his Panama hat, and his legendary insistence on working alone—until now. Pendergast rarely blinks—perhaps, someone surmises, he’s part reptile. But equally odd is Constance Greene, his “extraordinarily beautiful,” smart, and sarcastic young “ward” who has “eyes that had seen everything and, as a result, were surprised by nothing.” Coldmoon is more down to earth: part Lakota, part Italian, and “every inch a Fed.” Add in murderous drug dealers, an intrepid newspaper reporter, coyotes crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, and a pissed-off wannabe graphic novelist, and you have a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters. There is plenty of suspense, and the action gets bloody.

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4725-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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