A quartet of friends searches for treasure on a mysterious island in this novel.
Jack Simmons is a 29-year-old living an unfulfilling life in Manhattan, a low-level computer clerk who aspires to become a software developer. In the hopes of lifting his sagging spirits, he decides to visit his mother, who is still reeling from the sudden death of his father. She reveals that his father left him a letter and a key to a locked chest that turns out to be filled with antique artifacts and a map of a Caribbean island somewhere near Barbados. Jack’s father, an archaeologist, had become obsessed with finding the island, which allegedly harbors a centuries-old treasure but is contaminated by a curse. According to Jack’s mother, that fanatical commitment to locating the island, named Carta, consumed his life. Later, she suffers a heart attack, and her doctor says she will need to be cared for in an expensive nursing facility. Jack decides he can raise the money for her health care by finding the booty that eluded his father. He sets off for Barbados with his best friends—Arthur McIntosh, Michael Hagen, and Lucie Lapierre—and is able to ascertain that the strange island once belonged to Alexander De Carta, a doctor conducting experiments there, who inexplicably vanished. The island was then shuttered in response to puzzling “mishaps” that plagued it. Jack and his friends locate Carta and travel there to discover its riches. But they are furtively shadowed by Josh Connelly and James Perkins, two of Jack’s work colleagues intent on stealing his reward and humiliating him. Leger (Reflections of the Heart, 2010, etc.) conjures a complex tale that combines a rich, imaginative history of early 19th-century piracy with a rousing contemporary adventure on a dangerous Caribbean island. Nearly every element of drama is included: mystery, intrigue, the supernatural, violence, and even a love blossoming between Jack and the plucky Lucie. But the plot as a whole is a tapestry of timeworn formulas, and even for a fabulist story challenges credulity. In addition, the writing, especially the dialogue, is mechanical and spiritless. Early on, Jack tells his mother: “The atrocious news of your heart attack bewildered me, and I came as soon as possible.”
An inventive adventure tale marred by familiar plotlines.