Thursday, April 05, 2007

Book Review: The Ghosts of Guantanamo Bay

Author: K.R. Jones
Publisher: Seacay Publishing
ISBN: 978-0-9790973

It is December 1958. In just a few weeks, Fidel Castro’s takeover of Cuba will be complete. Three casino owners who grew rich by cooperating with American businessmen have devised a plan to keep their wealth out of the Communists’ hands: they will hide their treasure on the United States naval base at Guantanamo Bay.

Skip ahead to July 1997. Marine Captain Adam Claiborne and his wife, Audrey, are moving to “Gitmo,” a naval base that, having once played an enormous strategic role in the Cold War, now operates at just a fraction of its former capacity. Adam and Audrey are charmed by the island’s long white beaches and clear blue skies, but it takes them awhile to adapt to the humidity and the clouds of flies that follow them everywhere. Moreover, while they quickly make friends at Gitmo, they also acquire some vicious enemies. Their professional and social situations become precarious as the base commander and his domineering wife grow to be their chief adversaries.

As Adam and Audrey become acquainted with Gitmo’s characters and culture, they also become engrossed in its history and mysteries. They uncover and decipher clues that enable them to resolve the truth behind several suspicious deaths. The deaths, in turn, are connected to the treasure that was hidden on the base nearly forty years earlier. And the treasure is connected to the personnel problems that have hounded Adam and Audrey since their arrival.

K.R. Jones accompanied her husband when he finished his service in the United States Marine Corps with a two-year tour of duty in Guantanamo Bay. Her intimate, first-hand knowledge of the locale is obvious in her meticulous descriptions of the terrain, the architecture, the climate – even the insects. Her knowledge of the United States Marine Corps is evident in her vivid descriptions of naval life and procedures – including how it feels to wear woolen dress uniforms in a tropical climate. Details like these are difficult for even the best fiction writers to fabricate. They are second nature, however, for an author who has lived the life about which she writes. Even though The Ghosts of Guantanamo Bay is a work of fiction, it is saturated with dozens of small realistic details that render it believable.

The Ghosts of Guantanamo Bay
is a well-conceived, well-written story. Some of Jones’s characters are enchanting and others are infuriating, just like real people. Additionally, the social situations she describes are all too credible to anyone who has ever lived in a small community. A carefully constructed plot complements Jones’s deftly drawn characters. She does not leave any dangling clues or inexplicable characters stranded on the last page. When the story ends, the reader knows how all of the pieces scattered throughout the book fit into a coherent whole. My only quibble with the book is that it contains a handful of editorial errors. These can be quickly corrected, however, and I assume they will be.

Readers who enjoy whodunits will enjoy The Ghosts of Guantanamo Bay, a mystery tale that is uniquely suited to its exotic locale. Readers who enjoy this book also may want to be on the lookout for Jones’s next book, which is due to be published in the summer of 2007.

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