Palmyra, Isle of Death
Author: Karl Boyd
Publisher: lulu.com (2010)
Binding: Paperback, 348 pages
The following is historical fact as recorded in the Naval Achieves: "In 1816, a pirate ship named "Esperanza," reportedly filled with stolen Inca gold, engaged in a horrendous battle with another unknown pirate ship. The Esperanza sank its opponent, but soon foundered off the shores of Palmyra. But, before the ship sank, the crew removed the treasure and hid it somewhere on the atoll. To date, the treasure has never been recovered."
In Karl Boyd's novel, Palmyra, Isle of Death, two modern day treasure hunters, Bill "Skeeter" Whitaker and Clete Palmer discover the facts listed above and set off to see if they can find and recover the treasure; and return it to the Hawaiian authorities for historical purposes and any monetary reward offered. Along the way, they meet up and join forces with two other modern day pirates, Carter Jennings and his buddy, Jimmy Henderson, who are also after the treasure, but for their own greedy reasons.
Karl Boyd uses his superb writing ability to blend actual fact with his embellished ideas of what happened aboard the Esperanza and its opponent during the battle, the aftermath, shipwreck on Palmyra, three years of deprivation that followed and the final desperate attempt for the few survivors to reach safety.
As this rollicking tale weaves its way between the beautiful isles of Hawaii and the far off isolated atoll of Palmyra, the reader encounters ghosts of the past, modern day murder, lies, greed, betrayal, unrequited love and revenge.
Even after the conclusion of a well told tale, readers will wonder if Karl Boyd's assumptions of where the treasure still resides is pure fiction, or could it be more historical fact waiting to be discovered? But, in reality, only Palmyra, the Isle of Death knows for sure.
From the black tip sharks in its lagoon, to its sharp coral formation, to its thick consuming jungle, Palmyra is as unforgiving as it is remote. The American atoll served as a U.S. Navy refueling stop during World War II and is infamous for the double murder highlighted in Vincent Bugliosi's And the Sea Will Tell.
Karl Boyd takes the reader into this hostile environment through the pages of his book, Palmyra Isle of Death. The story follows parallel journeys separated by time. The first is of the Esperanza and pirate captains Vega Garza and Antonio de la Garza. These men and their crew are shipwrecked on Palmyra with their gold during the early 1800's. Legend has it that the treasure remains there today. This draws the attention of Boyd's second thread, following present day treasure hunters Skeeter Whitaker and Clete Williams who hope to find Esperanza's cargo. Unfortunately, their sponsor - Carter Jennings, has other plans. While intertwining both threads, Boyd shares with the reader other elements that bring Palmyra Isle of Death to an exciting conclusion.
This novel is reminiscent of both Bugliosi's account of the 1974 murders of Mac and Muff Graham and many of Clive Cussler's undersea adventures. It is recommended for those who like mystery-adventure tales.
Reviewed by: Stephen Phillips (2010)