Having just blogged about the joys of owning used books, I was amused to pick this one up and read an inscription from the author:
TO ELAINE, BE CAREFUL OF DARK CURRENTS!
If I were Elaine, I would still have this book in my library today. This book floated my boat. It sang my song. It had me calling Auntie’s Bookstore the minute I finished it to see if I could get his four other novels to read. Trust me, this one is a keeper.
Glenn Hogan, one of the MCs in the book, is NOT a keeper, despite what the heroine’s friend Margie thinks. Oh, Glenn presents well. He’s tall and handsome, with plenty of money. He treats his girlfriend Kathy Barrow very well. What’s not for a friend to like? Plenty, as it turns out, because Glenn is full of dark currents under a placid surface. He’s a wife-beater. Yeah, enough said. I would be telling Kathy (and Elaine) to dump him, except for just one thing. Kathy knows this, and is dating him anyway, In fact, it is WHY she picked him. What? Yes, dear reader, read on.
Two people go out snorkeling in the beautiful waters of Aruba, an island country off the coasts of Venezuela and Columbia. Only one comes back.
A Dorothy Parker Type Mystery-Thriller
I was a little taken aback to read, in the first paragraph, that Kathy Barrow is returning home after killing someone, getting away with it, and collecting $1.5 in insurance money. To reveal this just as you begin the story seemed strange and anti-climactic, at the very least. But then I remembered a mystery written by Dorothy Parker, the very literate woman who was said to elevate the tone of the detective novel in 1930s England. It might be Busman’s Honeymoon. As Parker’s mystery begins, Harriet Vane and Lord Peter Wimsey know who the murderer is. The puzzle they have to solve is HOW. And of course, why. It is an interesting approach and a literary road not often taken, so I resolved to at least give Dark Currents a chapter.
Within about 3 pages I was hooked!
What I loved most about the book were the characters of Kathy, the Aruban kid Romy Tromp who wants to be a famous TV reporter just like his hero Clive Mitchell, (he buys the same kind of shirts on purpose), the paranoid CNN (er…GNN) producer Stan Wofford, and the laid-back island police chief Jules and his girlfriend Agnes the air traffic controller.
The plot just draws you in. It is an easy read.
While there was enough local color to keep me interested, I could have used a few more Aruban fish, birds, plants, and other sights and smells.
Where in the world is Aruba?
I must confess, that even after the island hit the news in 2005 with the disappearance of Natalie Holloway, I didn’t realize how close to South America it really is. That mystery is referenced in the book, as the PM is desperate for his country to not get another black eye for a missing US citizen.
(Even though authorities are pretty sure Natalie’s killer is Dutch national Joran van der Sloot, a creep serving 28 years in Peru for a different murder, it hasn’t been proven, and her remains have never been found.)
Now, here is the weird thing: People from Holland came here and made this sovereign nation part of their country so far away, rather than the two Spanish-speaking countries so close by. (It is 18 miles off the coast of Venezuela.)
No, Aruba is a “constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands”, in the same situation as American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Marshall Islands–neither fish nor fowl nor good red herring. So it’s part of the Netherlands but not, its own country but also not. If I were Aruban, I would resent this like hell. I get bent enough about how out of touch Washington DC is with my home state of Idaho, and that’s only 3,000 miles away. How can the 16 million people in Holland justify making decisions for the 100,000 Arubans of completely different ethnicity, heritage, geography, language, etc? Talk about injustice. Grrrr
The other strange thing is that the “Kingdom of the Netherlands” itself didn’t exist prior to Napoleon Bonaparte’s defeat in 1815. So this new country, this new nation, what is the first thing they do? Take over somebody else’s country. Yeah, I know. America should talk.
Now let’s talk all thing Aruban:
- Romy’s mother is a taxista
- the people speak Papiamento, English, Dutch, Spanish, and Portuguese
- the port is called Oranjestad
- they play beach tennis, which is like badminton (featherball) with a special racket for catching and holding a tennis ball so it stays in the air
- the interior is dry enough to grow cacti outdoors
- you can spot wild iguanas sunning themselves on rooftops
Mr. Putkowski, Where Do You Get Your Ideas?
One of the most annoying questions writers get asked by the general public, is “where do you get your ideas.” Ideas are literally everywhere. It is plotting, characterization, and resolution that are hard. Editing. Internal and external conflict.
Ideas are a dime a dozen, people! (Or in Aruba, a florin a dozen!) And this novel was literally (like the Law & Order TV series I love) RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES.
In the preface to this book, the author tells us that he was on Aruba, in a San Nicholaas bar when Robyn Gardner went missing in 2011, and was inspired by events to write this novel about what could have happened.
The moral of the story seems to be, do not go drinking with anyone you do not know, and do not go into the water with anyone you don’t trust with your life. Oh yes, and–NEVER let someone you don’t know take out an insurance policy on you. Never, never, never.
RATING: Five bottles of Balashi beer!