A woman’s plea for help leads two grad students to a remote island that may hold the secret to infinite youth in the author’s latest thriller (Murder in the Valley of the Kings, 2013, etc.).
Hamnet “Ham” Andrews and Al Blake arrive in Maui for the International Conference on the Research of Aging. While relaxing on a private beach, Ham finds a message in a bottle from movie star Lona LeMonte, who’s yearning for rescue from the tropical island of Romosa, where she’s being held captive. Once there, Ham and Al realize that Romosa is special—Lona looks 30-ish but should be closer to 100 years of age—but aren’t aware that Dr. Richardson sees them as a threat and wants assurance that the two never leave alive. Michaelson’s novel is a diverting romp that’s equal parts romance and suspense, particularly when the doctor sends his henchman, Nabilac, to dispose of the two young men in what he hopes will look like accidents. The story, which clocks in at under 200 pages, might have benefitted from further details; prior to Ham and Al’s arrival on Romosa, Lona and aviator Penelope are both given extensive back stories, and though both had disappeared during separate flights, there’s no elucidation on how the ladies found the island. The two lead characters are appealing, since, after all, they go to great lengths to sail to Romosa and save a woman they’ve never met (though her promised fortune is good incentive). But their apparent immaturity can be vexing: “Awesome” is their preferred adjective, and Al’s endless swine-inspired nicknames for Ham come across as obnoxious, even if Ham is unfazed by them (“pig testicles” is an especially cruel one). Michaelson’s approach to the topic of eternal youth is refreshingly understated—there’s little talk of the island residents’ unmistakable lack of aging, so the potential fate of any resident who leaves Romosa is a mere implication and is only answered if and when it actually happens.
Some readers might wish for more time on the island, but there’ll be no complaints about this breezy, quick read that can be enjoyed in an afternoon.