Bluewater Publications (2022)
Reviewed by Lee Barckmann for Reader Views (09/2022)
“Casadora Island” is the latest novel by John Wilde.
Jamey Johnson, a widowed man, 37 and still grieving, is burnt out. He has been working 50-60 hours a week as a broker for a company run by a guy named Madoff. He confides his troubles to Mr. Madoff, who holds Jamey in high regard, and who tells Jamey to take a long vacation. Jamey gradually decides he needs more than just a vacation. He has a lot of the “Madoff money” coming to him, and he has a Realtor, Bailey, sell his New Jersey home for more than a million dollars. Bailey is a beautiful woman who he suddenly trusts to handle all the proceeds of the sale and with whom he is obviously falling in love. But she is married and too busy to pay attention to him. Jamey decides to move to an uninhabited island called Casadora in the Turks and Caicos Islands south of the Bahamas. Why Casadora? Something is fishy because we learn in a telephone conversation with his mother that his Uncle Gimpy had gone there once after a botched robbery, for which he was arrested, and then afterwards disappeared.
On his way to the main island near Casadora, Jamey overhears some suspicious conversations between a man with a Russian accent and what appears to be a woman, but subsequently discovers they are actually two men who are interested in Casadora as well. They all end up on the island, along with a Russian submarine, which suddenly surfaces.
After the first few chapters, you think you are reading a noir novel. We have Madoff money that the protagonist is waiting for, a long lost criminal Uncle who also went on the lam to Casadora long ago, and the brother of his love interest, Bailey, (who is handling his money) is mixed up with a Russian thief for whom a Russian sub tries to help escape. The FBI arrives and there is a firefight. The potential deadly intersections of this fast moving opening have you waiting for the next shoe to drop.
The main island, where almost all the secondary characters live, becomes Jamey’s base of operations. The deserted Casadora island, a lazy morning’s boat ride away, is his place of escape. Pele, a local fisherman, Melinda, an owner of a restaurant, some natives, and some people from the states, and others poor or looking for work populate the story. Some are ambitious, some very unambitious, and most are looking for romance. We also meet a pot smoking master carpenter who builds Jamey’s house, and who had a serious romantic falling out with Melinda long ago, and other people, including a rich old man who moved there many years ago, from Norway, he says.
Jamey often goes back and forth from the main island, to his deserted island, Casadora. The comings and goings and all that entails provide much of the narrative in the middle of the story. While on Casadora, he is alone with the beach, the sea, and Danny Boy, an ancient parrot who slowly becomes attached to him, and who had apparently once been tamed.
Jamey has money, and this helps with his integration into island life. He buys Pele a boat and a house for himself and generally spreads his wealth around making his new friend’s lives better.
It is a story of rediscovered love, and deep contemplation for Jamey Johnson, a dreamscape of escape, an idealized vision of the perfect life where new friends have wonderfully idiosyncratic, yet pleasant and warm, personalities. After the tense beginning, the story never darkens, even though we get fooled several times into thinking that the past is catching up with Jamey. But all the plot points opened in the first few chapters will get resolved in surprising and happy ways.
The book’s prose writing is clear and clean, and told in third person, with italicized first person observations from Jamey’s thoughts. We see Jamey grow away from his grief to find a new life and a new love. “Casadora Island” is a heart-warming story set in a tropical paradise.