Fiction: The Plot May Be an Open Sea, but There Are Strong Currents at Work ; the Nautical Chart by Arturo Perez-Reverte PICAD0R Pounds 16.99
Tanger Soto has a determination that reminds me of Peter Hoeg's Miss Smilla; both exhibit the slightly bruised, quietly righteous heroism that appears to take on violent criminals with bluff equanimity. Smilla's feeling for snow took her into the perilous waters of the Arctic; Tanger's feeling is for emeralds, specifically 200 perfect, uncut gems that would fetch a few million on Antwerp's black market but which lie somewhere near Cadiz, as yet undiscovered, in the unlocated wreck of the Dei Gloria. This simple fact gives The Nautical Chart its plotted course: Soto will unearth the jewels. But Arturo Perez-Reverte is no dredger when it comes to the chase. This is his fifth novel and it rolls purposefully along at a fair old clip, if occasionally sailing a little too close to the wind.
A strikingly self-willed historian in Madrid's Naval Museum, Tanger Soto has for many years been investigating the fate of the Dei Gloria, a Jesuit ship sailing from Havana with a clandestine cargo, only to be sunk by Algerian pirates in unusual circumstances. Manuel Coy, an unhandsome sailor whose pilot's license had been suspended, is bewitched by her from their first encounter at a Barcelona auction house, where she is coolly bidding for a rare nautical chart. The furious losing bidder is Nino Palermo, a Gibraltan treasure seeker, who proceeds to dog Coy and Soto's unlikely alliance as they scour 18th-century Spanish maritime history and several square miles of sea floor for the Dei Gloria's secrets.
Most of Perez-Reverte's characters at some time indulge in a good story. Coy reminisces about port brawls and marine lore, while Soto releases measured doses of her research as though administering information through an eyedropper. This does not assist Coy in seeing her trajectory very clearly, and much of the humour of The Nautical Chart flows from Perez- Reverte keeping Coy eager. Coy is pretty clear that he doesn't give a fart about buried treasure but would dearly love to count the myriad freckles gleaming on Tanger's skin. …