Fool's gold

The search for lost or hidden treasure is older than Jason and the golden fleece. Legend and history assure us it exists, on land and beneath the sea. Fortune hunters have been searching for it, high and low, for millennia. The Templars squirrelled away their trove, but where?

The pharaohs were placed in booby-trapped pyramids with their riches, but clever tomb raiders broke in and stole it. The Incas of Peru hid their treasure from the Conquistadors in the peak of Machu Picchu. Myth has it there's a city of gold in North America, not found as yet.

Hurricanes sank silver-laden galleons in the Atlantic Ocean. Mariners can't stop looking. Maps, X-marks the spot of Captain Kidd's treasure chests, are still being snatched up by people with shovels. A problem is, when found abroad who is their legitimate owner?

Then again, how many of such legends and histories are based on fact? Truth be told, wishful thinking lies behind more than a few. The desire to become wealthy trumps scepticism. On the title page of The Prisoner's Gold by Yank author Chris Kuzneski it states it's a work of fiction.

Taking a leaf from Alexandre Dumas' The Count Of Monte Cristo, a prisoner in a dungeon informs his new-found friend in the next cell about his savings as a merchant, but not revealing where he's hidden it. The setting, like the confidant, is Genoa. The merchant, Venetian, is Marco Polo. The year is 1208.

Eight hundred years later, the treasure has yet to be found. Hunters aren't above tracking one another and stealing what may have been found, even killing their fellows for clues discovered. Which is what keeps happening in this story as all follow the route Marco Polo took to the palace of Kublai Khan.

Cobb leads the good team, Feng the evil one. However, one member of Cobb's team belongs to the other side. And there are two leaders above Feng, all revealing themselves in good time. Pitched battles now and then. A particularly exciting one is between a helicopter and a drone.

A computer expert is a penultimate hacker. A linguist is fluent in medieval Mongolian. The climactic penultimate chapter takes place in Sri Lanka. The author makes clear that treasure hunting isn't a past-time for amateurs. Those in it are deadly serious.

Panic kills

The Athenian philosopher Plato noted that there are two reasons preventing man from committing a crime: that he was afraid of being caught; or that his conscience induced him to be honest. What he overlooked was the numerous reasons crimes are committed.

It would take pages to list them. Psychologists and psychiatrists are studying them all. To an extent, so are crime thriller novelists. Felons are interviewed in prison to hear their explanations, more than a few of whom are insane. Conveying this to the untrained in neurology is no simple matter.

The human brain is complex, especially when it short-circuits. Psychopaths and sociopaths don't realise this. To them the sight of blood and screams of pain are music to their ears. There's no reasoning with them -- indeed, no cure. Such books give readers a sickening feeling.

So why do we buy them? To see how the madmen are caught. First, authorities find out who they are, then proceed to track them down. Solitude Creek by American author Jeffery Deaver is case in point. Antioch March has a normal enough jog, yet carries heavy baggage -- a family car accident ripping a girl to pieces.

The morbid sight fascinates him. So much so that he plans to stage something of the sort with more horrific results, which he does at a concert. Yelling "Fire" he blocks the exits. In their panic, members of the audience die in their stampede to leave the premises. There was no fire.

Enter Kathryn Dance of the California Bureau of Investigation. Long a Jeffery Deaver literary character, she is put in charge of the team to catch the quarry and ensure that he won't do it again. Difficult because March has cronies with like minds. In time, they put her on their hit list.

Kathryn is a police expert in body language. And she finds time to have an affair.

The highly respected author has currently been tapped by the Ian Fleming group to pen James Bond stories. A lot of crazies there.

Kathryn Dance and Lincoln Rhyme, another standard Deaver sleuth, have been adapted to the big screen. His millions of fans span the globe.

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