Two of this year’s releases are based around treasure hunts.
THE BALTHAZAAR TREASURE, in the Gwen Finnegan Mysteries (under the Devon Ellington byline), is set around a sunken pirate ship off the coast of the Bahamas. The premise is based around a pirate and his land-based paramour, inspired by such tales prevalent here on Cape Cod and on Long Island. The bulk of the book is built around the salvage operation for the ship, both for the lost treasure, and for the archaeological value of the history.
DAVY JONES DHARMA also deals with sunken pirate treasure off the coast of Bermuda (since we were in the Bahamas in SAVASANA AT SEA, and each book follows a different cruise route). This treasure hunt is built around the lost treasure of one of pirate Dark Annie’s ships. Dark Annie is a fictional creation, inspired by the tales of Mary Read, Anne Bonny, and other infamous female pirates through the ages.
One of my novels in draft, ELLA BY THE BAY, is set on a fictional Caribbean island whose history is deeply laced with piracy, and a piratical ménage á trois.
Growing up, I loved mysteries built around treasure hunts. Nancy Drew and many of the other juvenile mystery series had books built around lost treasure, and I gobbled them all up. The popularity of movies such as PIRATES OF THE CARRIBBEAN has as much to do with the treasure, I believe, as with the actors involved in the scripts.
What is this fascination with treasure and treasure hunts?
I love the hunt itself. What do the protagonists uncover? How do they put the pieces of the puzzle together? How do they decipher the map and follow it? For me, the process is more interesting than the actual treasure. How the characters unravel the clues, put together the pieces, and treat each other and the antagonists along the way reveals so much about them. That is what I find interesting.
Other people are more interested in the treasure itself. Finding something valuable that was lost in dramatic circumstances and being able to profit personally from it drives plenty of people, both on and off the page.
There’s an assumed romance about treasure hunting that has little to do with the grueling day-to-day involved in marine salvage and marine archaeology. There’s also a tendency to ignore the very real cruelties that were involved with the treasure’s loss in the first place.
One of the big issues in DAVY JONES DHARMA is the strain the treasure hunt puts on the relationship between Sophie and Sebastian, especially once Sebastian is hit with “treasure fever” and becomes obsessed with the treasure. Many of the pressures on their relationship have to do with the relentless schedule that the staff and crew of a cruise ship faces, and the temptations and manipulations of the people around them, both working on the ship and passengers. Add to that a lack of privacy, and the relationship is already challenged.
Not to mention the fact that this a mystery series, so there are a number of bodies that drop in every book. At some point, I’m going to have to deal with the PR on that. It’ll be like Jessica Fletcher’s Cabot’s Cove or the Midsommer Murders villages — why would you go there on purpose and shorten the odds of survival?
Adding this additional pressure to Sophie and Sebastian, and exploring how they deal with it interests me. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to build this book around a treasure hunt.
The relationship challenges Sophie and Sebastian face in their treasure hunt are very different than the ones that Gwen and Justin face in THE BALTHAZAAR TREASURE. It’s been interesting to write these very different relationships with their different challenges close together and see how each set of characters deals with them.
I didn’t plan for these books to be written or published so close together, but that’s the way the business works.
I hope you will read them both and enjoy them both! Both books will release this year.