Lightweight piffle. One year after John Huston put “The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre” into cinemas Old Man Lovejoy – a ‘heart case in a wheel chair, with a good-looking nurse’ – hires manly Al Colby to safeguard a packet of Incan parchment telling of “the Treasure of Amarú”. An adventure singularly lacking in thrills ensues.
The first third of this is pure ‘Death On The Nile’ but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There is a lot of fun to be had on-board a boat, leaving poker games early to creep about deck in the dead of night while pretty girls get threatened, cabins get ransacked and grandees get offed. It’s an atmospheric setting with a bit of mystery and skulduggery thrown in and this reader strongly suspects the travel-loving David Dodge thought so too, possibly magicking his Peruvian diaries into this slight affair. Once shacked up in the Hotel de Turismo (hotels are fastidiously namechecked) Colby keeps running into his shipmates, fending off the amorous advances of tipsy Julie or getting tied up by the dastardly Jeff. Everyone wants that pesky parchment it turns out and Colby – mouthing the words, one suspects – reads of Incan gold stashes and treasures beyond belief. He’s duped by a man he was warned of, tied up, shot, falls for obvious delaying tactics on-board ship and is surprised when the man he is expecting to double-cross him double-crosses him. One suspects Mr Bean might have made a better fist of proceedings,
This would make for an average episode of ‘Danger Man’ or a so-so entry in a ‘Stories For Boys’ anthology but it’s thin gruel post ‘Raiders Of The Lost Ark’. What this needs in the middle of it all is a whisky-soaked bruised romantic – say, one Humphrey Bogart – but Dodge is too blissed out on Vitamin D to venture into hard-boiled waters. It’s a perfectly amenable, even moreish read, but the Hard Case Crime cover promises waaaaay more than the novel delivers. Save this for a couple of hours in a departure lounge. “Adiós, smart guy.”