Some people can’t stay out of trouble. Happily married, the parents of two precocious nine-year old girls, and comfortably off, Max and Sally Brown should have it easy. Not yet; that’s where the little girls come in. The twins maneuver their parents into a dangerous treasure hunt through abandoned gold mines. As Max forewarns, “the closer you get to the treasure the more competitors show up, some of whom don’t play by the rules.” The competitors in this case are seven Klansmen who believe that the object of the treasure hunt, a large cache of Confederate gold, is theirs to finance a second rebellion.
Book title: How Speleology Restored My Sex Drive
Series: The Max Brown Tetralogy (#3)
Author: Michael Bernhart
Genre: Cozy thriller
Published: 8 August 2016
The principal characters are husband, wife, nine-year old twin daughters, and a relative harboring a large dose of PTSD from Vietnam. The husband and wife are polar opposites. He’s cerebral, older, increasingly cautious, and hopeless with a gun. She’s impulsive, direct, and trigger happy – but a good shot.
The twins maneuver their parents into an ill-advised hunt for a large treasure of Civil War gold – the lost gold is not fictional – that a Confederate general cached somewhere in the north Georgia mountains 150 years ago. The adversaries are seven members of the KKK who’ve been looking for the same gold. The children are kidnapped by the Klansmen in the belief the kids have a lead on the treasure; the action centers on the parents’ frantic efforts to find and free their daughters.
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The guard looked the other direction and I poured water on Sally’s face. That works in the movies. No response. So much for the movies. But her pulse was still good. Sally, beloved life companion, I’m so very, very glad you’re alive. Now I need something more. She didn’t stir.
I checked the time. Three forty. Were the Klansmen digging up treasure in the mine?
Three fifty. My knees ached from crouching. When the guard looked the opposite direction I eased onto my stomach and sighted through the scope. With the rifle resting on a solid branch I could hold him in the crosshairs. Maybe I could make this work. But this was Len, the guy who’d argued against killing the girls. He didn’t deserve to die.
At three fifty-five a head appeared from the mine entrance. “Hey, Len. Bring up them bags. We may of found somethin’.” Len put down his gun and headed down the path.
No indecision, Max. It’s your show now. I could slip through the opening, move quietly down the mineshaft and get the drop on the three Klansmen who were holding Skeeter and the twins captive. They’d be busy, excitedly digging up Beauregard’s treasure.
I didn’t have a plan for getting out again.
I stood for a few seconds while my knees got used to bearing weight, then ran across the gravel and peered into the mine. There was a distant glow of flashlights, but there seemed to be no one immediately inside the opening. Turning sideways I started to work my way in, rifle pointed down the shaft. I took one glance back toward the path, leaning out through the opening, to see if Len was returning. That slight movement saved my vision and perhaps my life.
The explosion was immense and hurled me out onto the gravel. Stunned, it took a minute to get to my knees. A cloud of dust continued out of the opening, which now seemed larger than before. The ground shook with a low vibration. Then everything was still.
They’d done it. They’d sealed my little girls in the mine. Or buried them under tons of rocks.
Michael Bernhart is an award winning author who has published extensively on international development and public health – primarily service quality. His credentials for this written outpouring are a PhD (from MIT!) and four decades of international work – currently 50 countries and counting.
The journey from writing funding proposals to writing pure fiction was short and easy. The result is the Max Brown tetralogy which traces the arc (from age 10 through 66) of a man who earnestly tries to avoid trouble, but whose own behavior – or events – repeatedly drops him into it. Each of the four novels finds Max struggling with a new existential crisis – or crises – as he grows up in these trying times. Manhood used to be a birthright; now it seems to be an unending series of challenges. Each novel also finds Max confronting a new face of evil.
Dr. (why not use it?) Bernhart started this project before the internet could serve up virtual experiences to authors. The contextual information and situations come from service as a pilot in the USAF, living in Asia, Europe and Latin America, and inexplicable success at snaring women well out of his league. These remarkable similarities with the main character noted, he insists the work is not autobiographical. It’s wish fulfillment.
Bernhart currently lives in a yurt on a mountaintop in northern Georgia with one ex-wife, two daughters, and three cats. He still flies his vintage plane, although more cautiously than before, and he’s unshakeable in his conviction that he’s God’s Gift to Aviation.
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