Daily Archives: November 21, 2009

Golden Conspiracy: A Jacsen Kidd Mystery by Robert James Glider (Review #2)

golden1Reviewed by Douglas R. Cobb

The business of Jacsen Kidd, the eleventh-generation ancestor of the infamous pirate, Captain Kidd, is hunting treasure – and, business is good. With the financial backing of his culinary friend, the master gourmet and chef Pericles Schmoond, Kidd tracks down the clues that lead them to a hoard of Spanish conquistador booty that could be worth over a billion (that’s with a “b”) dollars – nice work, if you can get it. In Robert James Glider’s action-packed debut mystery novel, Golden Conspiracy, Kidd and Schmoond are pursued by an obsessed and ruthless antiquities dealer, Louis Damia, who will stop at nothing to steal the gold away from the duo once they find it. Also hot on their trial is the ex-KGB assassin, Garth Moska, who has a score to settle with Jacsen. Though new on the scene as a mystery writer, Glider hits a home run his first time at bat with Golden Conspiracy. Here’s hoping it’ll be just the first in a long string of mysteries featuring the unique and colorful treasure hunters Jacsen Kidd and Pericles Schmoond.

Jacsen has a hunch that the Spanish ship the Solitario, which met a fiery finish in 1503 off of the coast of Florida, didn’t go down to Davy Jones’s locker with its cargo of galleons and gold bullion. It traveled with another ship, the Santa Ynez, and the Solitario’s tale was told in two accounts that Kidd obtains access to. One is a diary written by its navigator, Francisco Callejo, and the other is the captain’s log of the Santa Ynez. He believes that at some point in the one-day period before its destruction and the deaths of most of the conquistadors aboard that the gold was unloaded to a third ship, and that this ship managed to sail around the cape of South America before Magellan, and almost made it all the way to Hawaii. A terrible storm arose, and only one of the conquistadors lived through it, making to a beach on Molokai and leaving a sort of map behind before he was captured and later died.

Jac bases these surmises on the fact that a Spanish-style Christian cross and petroglyphs depicting a bearded man were discovered in Molokai. Though the evidence is scant, Jac and Peri believe that it might be possible that whatever mysterious Spaniard visited Molokai in the early sixteenth century might have left behind his golden breastplate medallion, and that a map might be engraved upon its surface. To prove this somewhat wild hypothesis, they fly to Hawaii and then on to Molokai.

There’s plenty of action and adventure in the novel, as I mentioned. Jacsen reminds me of a cross between Johnny Depp’s take on Jack Sparrow from Disney’s Pirates of the Carribean movies, and James Bond. Sparrow, because he was a pirate and Jac is descended from a famous pirate, and they both go by Jack, though Kidd spells his version without the “k”. Jac is a womanizer, like Bond, and he has military experience, having been in a special ops unit during the Gulf War, so he knows how to use weapons and fight hand-to-hand, like Bond.

Nicole (“Nikki”) Thomas is assigned by Damia to keep tabs on Jac and Peri and learn more about their plans and the gold. She believes it’ll be a task she can readily handle, but she can’t help but fall for Jac, and regret her association with Damia. She is afraid that if she tells Jac the truth, though, Damia will find out and have her killed. When Damia and his bodyguards are murdered and she is the one who discovers their dead bodies in a hotel room, Nikki finally lets Jac know the truth – or most of it – but it’s awhile before Jac feels he can trust her.

What’s puzzling to Jac is who was responsible for Damia’s death, and for seemingly protecting him and Peri at other times, like when two thugs try to start a fight with them in a restaurant and get shot by someone who is bald headed and an expert marksman. Jac knew only one person like that, the Russian assassin Garth Moska, but he supposedly died trying to blow up a ship they both were in during a fight with Jac. Jac barely escaped with his life, and there were no reports of any other survivors, but the surveillance they’re under and the expert marksmanship of whomever it is that’s trailing them suggests that the rumors of Moska’s demise have been, like Mark Twain’s, greatly exaggerated.

Golden Conspiracy is a remarkable debut novel that should appeal to anyone who loves action-packed, suspenseful mysteries. There’s already a sequel in the works, Golden Legacy, and the first chapter of it is included at the end of this novel. I’m anxiously awaiting its publication, so I can read more about the adventures of Jac and Peri. If the second novel is as good or better than the first one in this new series, Golden Legacy will be very good, indeed. If you like action-filled, edge-of-your-seat mysteries, I strongly urge you to check out Golden Conspiracy today!

A review copy of this book was supplied to the reviewer by the author.

Dial H for Hitchcock by Susan Kandel (Review #2)

dialReviewed by Caryn St. Clair

After giving readers an insider’s look at the lives of Erle Stanley Gardner, “Carolyn Keene,” Dashiell Hammett and Agatha Christie, Kandel now turns her attention on Alfred Hitchcock. In Dial H for Hitchcock, Kandel again has her protagonist, biographer Cece Caruso, stumble into a real murder as she is working on her book about a crime fiction author. Back too is Cece’s dream wardrobe of vintage clothing, and the entire cast of engaging characters from the previous books.

While trying to put her life back together after a failed honeymoon, Cece attends a showing of Vertigo in an effort to get the writer’s juices flowing again on her current project, a biography of Alfred Hitchcock. What happens instead is she meets a guy, blows him off, has her car rear ended and ends up with someone else’s phone in her purse. Which, as readers of the earlier books will expect, leads to all sorts of trouble for Cece.

Dial H for Hitchcock is the fifth book in this somewhat uneven series. I’m happy to say that after a couple of less than satisfying outings, Cece is back in top form in this one. The “twist” in these books that give them a special niche is that each one finds the protagonist, Cece somehow involved in a murder mystery shockingly similar to one that the subject of her current book project would have written. The first book in the series, I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason was so dead on accurate that I’m sure I’m not the only reader who expected Raymond Burr to appear at any second! Christietown on the other hand just didn’t work, probably because Cece’s trials and tribulations are often nearly slapstick in nature whereas there is nothing even faintly that way in any of the Christie books. But with Dial H for Hitchcock, once again readers may well find themselves expecting the trademark cameo appearance at any second. The solution to the crime in this one has the expected Hitchcock twist, and it’s pulled off perfectly.

A review copy of this book was supplied to the reviewer by the publisher.

Golden Conspiracy: A Jacsen Kidd Mystery by Robert James Glider

goldenspiThe year is 1503 when a Spanish shipwreck survivor wearing a gold half moon tag-plate medallion inscribed with a riddle to the location of plundered gold bullion is captured by a young warrior and fights for survival on the island of Molokai.

In 2009, Dr. Ricardo Montoya, a Spanish historian is contracted to translate a recently uncovered log of a guardian galleon, the Santa Ynez, and compares it with the surviving navigator’s diary of the treasure ship Solitario. He discovers both documents report the Solitario burned and sunk off the Florida/Georgia coast in 1501, since the “devils minions possessed the crew.” Relying on a leap of evidentiary faith confirming his employer’s suspicion of a conspiracy to plunder the gold, Montoya discovers an article in the New York Times reporting the recent find of a Spanish gold cross, circa 15th century in an excavation on Molokai, and believes it could be a link to the Solitario’s gold bullion. With a threat on his life due to huge gambling losses, Montoya sells Jacsen Kidd and Pericles Schmoond’s confidential information to Louis Damia, a ruthless antiquity collector and nemeses of Jac’s father, Mandrago Kidd.

Greed, murder and passion fuel the hunt for the gold as Kidd, a descendant of the infamous Captain Kidd, and his partner, Pericles Schmoond, a gastronomic icon begin to unravel the deception. First, in a Florida coastal village, while being covertly followed by an old enemy of Jac’s thought to be dead. Then, in the Hawaiian Islands, Peri’s nephew, Michael, an archeologist, finds a revelation in a chant which leads him to uncover a petroglyph in a dig confirming an encounter on Molokai by a warrior named Liko with a mysterious white god wearing the sun around his neck. Michael believes that the depiction of the sun is a gold medallion that may contain a clue to the location. Nicole Thomas, Damia’s operative is sent to uncover information from Jac, but when unexpected chemistry arises between them, and before Nikki can disclose her deception, she finds Damia murdered.

As they enter a savage past near an ancient village in the Halawa Valley on the island of Molokai to find the Spaniard and the breastplate medallion, Jac and Peri trace the footsteps of the stranger from clues in the chant. Lurking nearby Garth Moska, an ex-KGB assassin thought dead, who vowed to kill Jac and take the gold. After a near death struggle beneath a waterfall while swimming through a maze of lava tubes, and caverns, Jac uncovers the Spaniard’s remains, and unearths the inscribed medallion. Kidnapped by Moska, Nikki is rescued by Jac during a high-speed helicopter/speedboat chase. And with Moska in relentless pursuit, Peri, Michael, Jac, and Jac’s father Mandrago Kidd, become entangled in a maze of treachery and murder. Following the clues in the riddle, sailing to the Brazilian island, Fernando de Norhona, Jac begins to unravel the mystery, and is faced with seemingly overwhelming odds to save his friends lives. In an encounter with Moska, Peri suffers severe wounds as he attempts to save Jac. Jac’s courage rises to the occasion, and in a final clash of intellect versus power, Jac and Moska drop from a cliff into the sea. Surviving the ordeal, Jac crawls from the surf. In a sea cave, in what seems to be a dead end, a simple gust of wind provides Jac with the final clue, and leads him and Peri to the gold.

A light plane lands on a bay off the Brazilian mainland with another survivor of the ordeal on Fernando de Norhona. There will be another day, Moska vows, to kill Jacsen Kidd.