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Everything one could ask for, until . . .
on June 9, 2001
Wilbur Smith is a master at taking action to the level of frenzy. If Pauline thought she was overwhelmed with perils, she ought to read "The Eye of the Tiger." More than once when I was wondering how Harry Fletcher would survive an ordeal I discovered that his troubles were only beginning. In an underwater adventure he had to do in a giant moray eel, fought off sharks followed by bigger and meaner sharks, encountered poisonous coral. He ran out of breathing air, got the bends. He was beset with bad girls, battled waves of bad guys followed by badder guys, and meaner ones yet were on the way. Traitors lurked within his ranks.
I found the story immensely entertaining. It has been a long time since I've been gripped so by a tale. I pursued it far into the night and finally had to make myself put it down.
The circumstances surrounding the sailing ship Dawn Light, and how it was discovered what she carried and where she went down, were particularly well crafted. Captivating.
Wilbur Smith dances dangerously close to the incredible time and again as he keeps his narrative running wildly along. Yet somehow he avoids that perilous step over the line of credibility.
At least he did so until the very end. There he didn't step across the line but pole-vaulted over it. My delight was shattered by that one sledgehammer blow when he anchored a central theme of the story in quicksand. The premise underlying Sherry North's (or whoever she was) motivation was totally at odds with international maritime laws regarding salvage of treasure. England had no jurisdiction over a century-old shipwreck half a world away. No English government agency would have behaved as Smith described. We were not offered the flimsiest reason or justification for England's interest, much less involvement. It pummeled common sense. Smith obviously has the talent for imagining a plausible foundation for that critical aspect of the story. Why didn't he?
There were other irritations, minor ones that would have gone unmentioned but for the colossal one. For instance, on his arrival in England Harry obtained a Benz from the Hertz depot. It continued as a Benz until midway through the episode, when it became a Chrysler. In the final scene, Harry narrates, "I settled into the seat of the Swissair 727 and fastened my seat belt." Then two paragraphs later, "As the Caravelle took off..."
The description on the back of this paperback edition begins, "For a thousand years, an unimaginable treasure has rested on the bottom of the Indian Ocean." It had been on the ocean floor a hundred years, not a thousand.