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The Nautical Chart


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A suspended sailor and a gorgeous woman who works at Madrid's Naval Museum join forces to uncover a sunken galleon and find themselves in hot water. From the author of intellectual thrillers like The Flanders Panel. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Popular Spanish novelist P?rez-Reverte (The Fencing Master; The Club Dumas) is known as "the master of the intellectual thriller." But his customarily skillful blend of pop erudition and conscious borrowing of literary precedents threatens to capsize this tale of a race to retrieve a fortune in emeralds that sank off the Mediterranean coast of Spain in 1767. Manuel Coy is now in the Conrad phase of his life, having previously lived a Stevenson period and a Melville period. He is a "sailor exiled from the sea," his pilot's license suspended for two years after he ran a merchant ship onto an uncharted rock in the Indian Ocean. Attending an auction of nautical relics in Barcelona (in his "Lord Jim jacket"), Coy watches a beautiful young blonde woman outmaneuver a menacing ponytailed man to purchase a 17th-century nautical chart of the Spanish coast by Urrutia Salcedo. The woman is T nger Soto, of Madrid's Museo Naval; the ponytailed man is a famed pirate of sea salvage, Nino Palermo. Coy comes to T nger's defense when he sees her being threatened outside the auction house by Palermo thus putting himself in the service of a woman he is sure will eventually betray him. The characters are only too aware of the affinities of their story with The Maltese Falcon, and with a whole library of sea literature. P?rez-Reverte is too accomplished a novelist to write a truly dull book, and the underwater sequences that climax the story are masterfully done. But any sea adventure that is more than half over before it makes it to the sea has to be in some kind of trouble. (Oct.) Forecast: This may not be P?rez-Reverte at his best, but his second-best will be more than good enough for most readers. A first printing of 125,000 copies and a five-city author tour are in the works. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Spanish master Perez-Reverte has a streamlined approach to novel writing: he takes a recherch? subject say, fencing or rare books and uses it to construct a story rich in suspense, detail, and character study. The territory he covers in his latest work (after The Fencing Master) is in fact the deep blue sea. Coy, a sailor suspended for two years from the Merchant Marine, becomes infatuated with a mysterious woman named T nger Soto he encounters at an auction. There she has successfully bid on an old maritime atlas that will guide her to the Dei Gloria, a Jesuit ship downed in the Mediterranean in the 18th century. Soon T nger has drawn Coy into her scheme, which pits them against a thug named Palermo and his sidekick dwarf. All the elements are here for another literate thriller from Perez-Reverte, but this work is surprisingly less effective than its predecessors. The set-up is intriguing and the ending persuasively suspenseful, but in the middle stretches a long, becalmed section that dwells tediously on maritime detail and on Coy's endless seesawing as he considers whether to trust the obviously treacherous T nger. Perhaps those with a taste for the sea will be more drawn in; otherwise, this should work primarily for larger thriller collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/01.] Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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