Author: Mark Marchetti

Publisher: Lizard Key Books

ISBN: 978-0615651248

“What do the following have in common? A teenage smuggler of Mayan artifacts, a Nazi Admiral fleeing Germany at the end of World War II, stolen gold, a lost submarine, a beautiful woman seeking revenge, a corrupt United States Senator, a Neo Nazi terrorist publisher, a Voodoo priestess, and a modern day pirate. The answer is Lizard Key!”

Author Mark Marchetti uses the question-and-answer method on the back cover to cultivate interest in his book, Lizard Key. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t fulfill the promise made. Instead readers may finish Lizard Key wondering just exactly what all the people in the list have in common.

The book opens with artifact smuggler Carlos in the jungle of the Yucatan Peninsula in the mid-1960s, purporting to set the scene for modern-day pirates to appear later in the story. Carlos builds his career by taking items of historical value and sending them through the right channels to make a fortune. Along the way he meets the love of his life, Victoria, and they continue to build their fortune by deviating into the television business.

Author Marchetti then transports readers in Chapter 3 to the end of World War II and to the submarine of a Nazi admiral looking to steal enough from the German party to fund a comfortable retirement. The admiral transports several bars of gold onto the submarine and hires a crew to man the craft, but they don’t quite make it to their final destination. The book then jumps to a quick introduction of modern-day Nazi Joseph Reichter before returning to Carlos’ story.

These initial chapters of the book supposedly lay the groundwork for the main story to come later—that of Nick Roberts, descendant of infamous pirate Black Bart Roberts, and Nick’s investigation into the mysterious death of Carlos—but readers may lose patience before they get too deep into Nick’s story. Marchetti has set up a fascinating premise but simply can’t execute it. Clunky writing prohibits him from accomplishing his goal. In the following example from early in the book, Marchetti describes the interaction between Carlos and Victoria (the sentence is reproduced here exactly as it appears in the book, missing punctuation and all):

Eventually, after they rolled around and played, removing enough of each others clothing to make it really interesting they got down to some serious foreplay and sex. It was sometime later they got to the business of writing up an idea that could be presented to television outlets.”

Readers will find dozens of such examples throughout the book that could produce audible groans. Marchetti clearly needs to spend some time reviewing basic grammar and verb usage, such as in the second half of the following example:

Nora got up and said, ‘We’ll get breakfast out for you two.’ Then she took Andy by the ear and drug him off to the kitchen.”

Marchetti’s SCUBA diving expertise serves as an instrumental tool in Lizard Key in the sections where he describes the diving expeditions, but here too his writing fails to live up to his story promise. He spends too much time on exposition and doesn’t bother to weave his factual knowledge into the story overall, letting the facts stand apart and sound like a crash course on SCUBA.

For an exciting story about pirates, island adventures, and bounties of treasure, readers may want to bypass Lizard Key and go back to Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson instead.

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