Friday, November 22, 2013

Time of the Tiger: The Sultan's Tigers by Josh Lacey

The pagan shrine was no more than a few golden bricks built around a hole in the ground.

I had already wrapped my tiger in my second-best shirt. Now I pushed aside the bricks and lowered myself into the hole.
I found a place to hide the tiger. No one will find him. No one but you, my sweet wife.

If you are reading these words, my dear Susanna, then I shall have been buried here, in the Hindoos' soil. Please remember this: as I slipped away, I had only thoughts of you.

Your beloved husband,
Horatio Trelawney

Tom is a true Trelawney, the descendant of Cornwall smugglers and a long line of  crooks and bandits, but only he and his ne'er-do well Uncle Harvey seem to have inherited the Grandpa's risk-taking Trelawney genes. Assembled in Ireland with his family when Grandpa is found mysteriously dead in his cluttered house, Tom has an encounter with the gun-and-knife-wielding Marko, who offers 2000 euros if he will he hand over the bejeweled tiger taken by his ancestor Horatio from an Indian sultan in 1799. Tom immediately begins a search of his grandfather's house and finally uncovers a series of letters from his great-great-great-great-great-grandfather which explains why Marko thinks the Trelawneys have the priceless tiger, sought by the Indian billionaire Jalata Jaragami.

So now I understood what Grandpa had been selling. And now I knew why Marko was here. These letters were worth a lot more than two thousand euros.

Tom knows his boring by-the-book father will simply hand over the letters to the authorities, so he takes his find to Uncle Harvey, who, as usual, is in grave need of funds. With a handshake the two skip town together and take off for India in hopes that Horatio's tiger, the last of a set of eight stolen in the Hindu wars, is still in its hiding place.

With Marko in pursuit, the two Trelawneys arrive in India and make their way across the sub-continent by train, taxi, scooter rickshaw, and finally on foot, along the way meeting up with the billionaire collector J.J. who ups the offer to five million dollars.  But for the treasure-hunting Trelawneys, that's too easy, and besides, they have first to actually retrieve the tiger, a detail they are loathe to reveal. At last they reach the area where Horatio plundered Tipu Sultan's treasures, and while Uncle Harvey is chatting up an attractive tourist, Tom spots a temple on top a likely-looking hill and discovers that in the center of the temple room is a large hole which the priests claim is the home of their local god. Tom is sure that there is something else down that hole that has been keeping the god company for the last 200 years:

This was my chance.

I ran into the inner sanctum. I pulled the planks from the hole. I looked down.

A rock jutted out there. And another. I lowered myself down.

Now I could see what was around me.  I could see holes and bits of rock and a bundle of something, covered in dirt and dust. My fingers brushed away what remained of some cloth. My ancestor's shirt had decayed into dust. But it had done its job, protecting the treasure.

But finding the tiger is only the necessary first half of their quest, with the murderous Marko and the unprincipled J.J., who keeps the other seven Tipu tigers in a museum surrounded by a moat filled with real tigers, still ahead for the intrepid Trelawneys, in Josh Lacey's just-published The Sultan's Tigers (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013). It's a non-stop, flat-out adventure story, a thrill-a-minute road trip with two Indiana Jones-type protagonists, filled with local color and engaging characters who help the two along the way. And even if they can outwit Marko and J.J., dodge being dumped into the tiger pit, and make the best of their booty, Tom still has his problems to deal with when he returns, triumphant but still AWOL, to his parents in Connecticut. A perfect guy-type road story, with exotic locations, perfect stock villains, and plenty of humor, this one is a worthy successor to the first book in the series, Island of Thieves. Kirkus Reviews says "Lessons both social and geographic are laid on lightly in this rip-roaring adventure."

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home