3 out of 4 stars
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The possibility of someone finding Spanish gold on Vancouver Island fired my imagination into reading Westcoast Bounty by Ian Kent. Typical treasure-hunt stories take place in the Caribbean, so this was likely to be an unusual account in the history of British Columbia.
By 1699, the Spanish were very comfortable navigating the western coast of Mexico and their territories farther north of California. Like all the imperialists of the time, the Conquistadors wanted to find the most expeditious route from the Pacific to the Atlantic. They mined gold in Peru and silver in Mexico. They then had to transport it overland through Panama to the Atlantic and reload it onto a galleon bound for Spain. Their navigators searched for the Straits of Anian, referred to today as the Northwest Passage. Any man who discovered this more direct sea route back to the Old World would reap enormous rewards for his discovery. Inevitably, one such attempt to return the New World wealth to the Spanish government resulted in a shipwreck.
The wreck was hidden for one hundred fifty years. Then, in a prequel to Westcoast Bounty, author Ian Kent has Maggie Cameron Manson, a pioneer mother of two from an impoverished village in Scotland, discover the booty in her search for her missing husband. Our story, book two in a three-part series, begins with Maggie’s great-great-grandson discovering a journal with enough references to the fortune to prompt an expedition to locate the cache.
Jack Manson is developing his family’s land on the coast when his backhoe operator uncovers an old foundation. There is an aged leather-bound notebook wedged between two of the fireplace stones. The government requires that any potentially significant archeological find must be researched in place. Consequently, while the scientists excavate the find, Jack’s project is brought to an abrupt halt. Jack’s friend, David Malcolm, a museum director, realizes that the journal is a Manson family heirloom. He provides Jack with legible photographs of the entries. Somehow, the information is leaked to a Hong Kong businessman with some very questionable associates. Jack’s adventures are sure to be riddled with risks. Will the rewards be worth it?
Although the book defies logic at times, and some characters act in ways that stretch credibility, Westcoast Bounty is an enjoyable adventure. This book describes advanced photographic techniques used to clarify the three-hundred-year-old relic and does a fair job of convincing the reader that there may actually have been a wreck of the type described. I liked that the author brought the sciences of archeology to life. Although Jack and his friends were amateurs, they had a lot of expert help. As good citizens, they paused their expensive land development with a minimum of grumbling. In return, the museum responded by throwing its weight behind the group’s search for a lost galleon. A veritable fortune in drones, hi-def cameras, aerial surveillance, zodiac watercraft, and scuba gear was required. As unlikely as this is, it did make good fiction.
The author uses several devices to bring information from the first book into his narrative. In one place, Jack’s grandfather reveals family legends from his own grandfather. In another, the native council retells a tribal memory. Bits and pieces of the previous book are woven into the research of the museum society and the readings of old nautical logs. I appreciated this, as it made it unnecessary to read the first book. What I did not like were the endless preparations, the redundant conversations summarizing previous chapters, and the slightly stilted conversations. I was uncomfortable with the locale that the writer was using. A little more description of the area would have helped readers, like me, who are not Canadian.
There are some violent scenes in the book. They are well written without being too graphic and added some action to the academia. There is a little romance in the book as Jack reunites with an old flame, which did not do much to spice up the plot. The hint of sex between Jack and his girlfriend is almost an afterthought. There is a sense that the book was professionally edited, but it needs another round. Most mistakes were simple missed words or dropped defining articles. By far the most distracting mistakes were the missing direct address commas. The errors were frequent enough to withhold one star, making my rating three out of four stars. For all the adventure story readers who love a lost treasure tale, this one is a good read. Oh, and don’t forget, there is a third in the series. Happy hunting!
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