Review

Plunder of the Sun

by David Dodge



I am not sure how one goes about the process of having a particular
institution declared a national treasure, but I would love to get
the ball rolling today for the Hard Case Crime imprint. Over the
past several months Hard Case has published a riveting mix of
reprinted and original hard-boiled, noir crime fiction in mass
market paperback form, drawing readers in with out-of-print titles
by familiar names such as Lawrence Block and Erle Stanley Gardner
while encouraging others to take a chance on both new and
under-appreciated authors and works.

PLUNDER OF THE SUN is one of those works that has fallen into
undeserved obscurity, a state that will hopefully be remedied by
its new incarnation in the Hard Case Crime catalog. David Dodge was
a frequent and fairly prolific writer of hard-boiled fiction from
1940 through 1972. His best-known work, TO CATCH A THIEF, was
adapted for film by Alfred Hitchcock. But he was also famous for a
series of novels featuring detective and tax expert James "Whit"
Whitney. Dodge was also a popular travel writer, and his mystery
novels soon became recognized for their exotic backgrounds. Dodge
created a second series of mystery novels featuring Al Colby, an
American detective and fixer based in South America in general and
Chile in particular. PLUNDER IN THE SUN is a Colby novel, and is a
stellar example of Dodge's talents as a travel reporter and mystery
writer.

At first blush PLUNDER OF THE SUN appears to be a bit of a
departure from most of the fare of Hard Case Crime to date. It is
more global in scope, taking place in Chile and Peru as opposed to
the usual hard-boiled environs of New York or Los Angeles. There is
also a bit more at stake here; instead of drugs or a bank heist, it
is concerned with smuggling and buried treasure. But all of the
other elements that make noir what it is --- deadly situations,
treacherous men, beautiful but deadly women --- are here. Dodge
transforms Colby, his itinerant soldier of fortune, into a
competent stranger in a paradise where the act of turning over a
rock can bring either wealth or a sudden and painful death.

PLUNDER OF THE SUN begins with Colby being retained to smuggle a
mysterious package from Chile into Peru. It doesn't sound like much
of a job; all that Colby has to do is take the package from his
erstwhile employer, sail on a ten-day cruise to Peru, and give the
package back when they land. By the time the cruise is over,
however, Colby's enigmatic employer is dead and he is on the run
from at least two gunmen. Even worse, he has been betrayed by two
beautiful women. The package that Colby is carrying is worth more
money than he can imagine, and incidentally contains the answer to
one of history's greatest mysteries.

Colby can trust no one, but he doesn't know this, an element that
gives the novel some added twists and turns. Additionally, the
people who are trying to separate Colby from his package cannot
trust one another; alliances shift and turn, with the only constant
being Colby's rough sense of honor and decency. Dodge navigates his
reader through a complex plot, keeping a sense of wonder present
throughout the proceedings. One cannot read the book without
spending at least a few moments wondering how such a work could
have gone out of print for so long.

Hopefully the response to PLUNDER OF THE SUN will be such that Hard
Case Crime will see fit to reprint in its distinctive format more
of Dodge's works. This is a great story, by an under-acknowledged
master. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 18, 2011

Plunder of the Sun
by David Dodge

  • Publication Date: May 3, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense
  • Mass Market Paperback: 222 pages
  • Publisher: Hard Crime Case
  • ISBN-10: 0843953586
  • ISBN-13: 9780843953589