Tim W. Jackson
Devonshire House Press (2016)
Reviewed by David K. McDonnell for Reader Views (07/16)
Article first published as Book Review: ‘Blacktip Island’ by Tim W. Jackson on Blogcritics.
“Blacktip Island” by Tim W. Jackson is a fascinating, well-written story. The lead character is an almost-inadvertent embezzler from the United States who seeks anonymity in a small (fictional) Caribbean island. The island, it turns out, is inhabited almost entirely by others hiding from their pasts. They work as cooks, barmaids, charter captains, dive masters, cottage landlords, and they share cheap flats -- and each hides a secret, which is unveiled slowly throughout the novel. It is their interaction, and the gradual reveal, which makes the story such an interesting read.
The setting is almost as important as the characters. Perhaps most of us envision a life on a Caribbean island. “Blacktip Island” shows us some of its shortcomings – inadequate housing, intrusive landlords, quirky neighbors, and the lack of privacy, which should be expected with life on a small island. But, it is nevertheless the stuff of fantasy, which, in turn, makes good fiction.
“Blacktip Island” is otherwise a bit difficult to classify. It is an adventure story, to an extent, and a mystery, to a lesser extent. There is a plot – the hero attempting to avoid detection, eco-terrorists trying to stop construction of a new airport, a beautiful bartender keeping her own secrets, and hunts for a pirate treasure, each overlapping within the story. But, the story is less driven by a plot than by the characters and the idyllic setting.
The book’s opening paragraph sets the story’s tone, and also illustrates the author’s voice:
“Blake Calloway had really done it this time. Here he was trying his damnedest to blend in with the scuba tourists until he could stash the bricks of money he wasn’t supposed to have, and now everyone on the boat was watching him. It couldn’t be helped, though. The bonehead needed rescuing.”
The “bonehead” was another diver. The protagonist’s successful rescue enabled his transition from island tourist to resort dive master - and immersion into the soap opera lives of the island locals. And, it is the lives of the island locals that makes the story so engrossing.
“Blacktip Island” by Tim W. Jackson is, indeed, an entertaining tale of the misadventures of expatriates on an island, which should be, but is not quite, paradise.