Lost In Palau A Good Read

22 01 2013

The novel Lost in Palau by Randy Schafer is a gripping story set in post-WWII Palau in the Pacific. It is about a mystery uncovered by 3 U.S. Navy sailors who discover an unidentified sunken ship. I don’t want to give away the ending, so I am avoiding spoilers. In the interest of full disclosure, the author is a close personal friend that I have known since the late 1970’s.

When reading the book, it is useful to keep in mind that Randy is a relatively new writer. He does sometimes fall into the trap of re-using a metaphor or image that was compelling or captivating the first time. Yes, you will also find some typos, and the odd sentence that is a fragment rather than complete. But don’t let the occasional repetition of metaphor, or the relatively rare mechinical issues, detract from the story. It is quite good.

One element I enjoyed was that the characters never strayed far from “type”, and remained grounded in who they are. No one suddenly gains superhuman skills far beyond what they have. No one suddenly gains knowledge or insight they wouldn’t ordinarily achieve. That isn’t to say that the characters don’t grow. I found that the main characters had depth. Even secondary characters had more than a couple of dimensions, but the story didn’t get bogged down in trying to round everyone out. We learn as much as we need to know about the secondary characters so we can understand who they are, and a bit more about the main characters so we can understand their actions and motivations.

Randy also avoids cliche and hackneyed turns of phrase. He has kept the writing simple, which suits that characters and their actions. The story isn’t also completely forthcoming in all the details and backstory, which adds an element of mystery, and mirrors real life. The real relief: no dues ex machinas popping up to save the day or suddenly answer all the questions.

The story itself moves at a good pace. The opening chapters might feel a bit slow, but if you picture yourself out in the lazy heat of the humid Pacific in early spring, doing a job that isn’t necessarily that exciting, you begin to understand why the pace is the way it is at the start. It is a story that builds slowly at first, but once it gathers steam, moves along at a very exciting clip. You may find it hard to put the book down once things really get rolling.

Being close friends of the author aside, I would recommend Lost in Palau to anyone who enjoys an action-filled high-stakes mystery. If you enjoy stories like those of Clive Cussler, you will like Lost In Palau.

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