Book Review: “Benito’s Gold” by Bob Menzies

Benito’s Gold (Sid Harta Publishers, November 2020) by Bob Menzies

Reading Bob Menzies’ Benito’s Gold reminds this reviewer of Dan Brown’s novels – the intrigue, the chase, the plot twists and relatively short chapters, and, of course, the multiple deaths.

Even the merciless killer remains similarly mysterious, his identity and motives kept murky until the very end.

But, unlike Brown who is known for spinning conspiracy theories and elaborately detailing styles, sceneries, atmospheres and moods, Menzies’ down-to-earth, no-nonsense approach helps quickening the pace.

As readers, we are graced with each character’s age, height, and distinct facial/physical features. Then we are hurled straight into the thrilling game of cat and mouse.

In this whodunit book, the “cat” is three war veterans named Archie, Baz and Chris who make up the ABC Adventure Team. They are hired to travel around Australia looking for shipwrecks, missing gold from the past, and some of the country’s most baffling mysteries.

As for the “mouse” – well, somewhere around Queenscliff, a cave is said to be haunted by long-lost pirates. These wandering souls keep returning to their gold, silver and gemstones, their blood thirst and greed a curse to anyone daring to unearth them.

Still, many tried and are still trying, and they are willing to commit murder and much more to keep it all to themselves.

Menzies’ entertaining story follows the ABC Adventure Team as they race against time to save a missing boy, discover long-buried chests of gold, while trying to avoid a killer determined to stop them.

It is an endearing tale, set mainly in Victoria and featuring tough-as-nail Aussie blokes both young and old. Particularly enjoyable is the mention of Riverscape Restaurant, on the banks of Sturt Reserve in Murry Bridge, South Australia, whose quality of food, service and aesthetics are highly recommended by the author.

In Menzies’ notes about the restaurant’s owner, readers get a glimpse of the sense of humour that the author shares with his characters. “Sorry about the three bullets in the back, Daimo, but you’ll recover and feature in up-coming ABC adventures.”

The quirky yet delightful Aussie humour is detected throughout the book – during Captain Bennet Graeme’s transformation from Commander of HMS Devonshire to Benito Bonito, amidst the bold plan of Captain William Thompson and the crew of the Mary Dear to steal the Spanish treasure that they were supposed to safeguard, and in the final showdown between one of the main characters and his nemesis.

The scale of the author’s research is impressive, and the list of facts provided at the end the book is another reminder of Brown’s style. However, whether the pirate treasure ended up hidden somewhere around Queenscliff or on Cocos Island, those who have sought it over the years and even today are Aussies and their characteristics uniquely Australian.

The novel can benefit from some editorial TLC, but Benito’s Gold is ultimately the exciting debut of a new author full of wild and vivid imagination. We look forward to reading the next ABC Adventure Tour north of Wagga Wagga.

Note: This article was originally published under the title “Local author strikes gold”, by Ranges Trader Star Mail, June 1, 2021, Page 4.

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