I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Day Keene is one of the most consistently entertaining writers I’ve ever read. Every book is well-plotted and sharply written, and PASSAGE TO SAMOA is no exception.
A Gold Medal from 1958, this one starts with a fairly standard set-up. The protagonist, Matt Kelly, is a deep-sea diver hired at the last minute to recover some money and important papers from a rich man’s yacht that sank during a storm in the South Pacific. The wealthy owner went down with the ship, and his beautiful stepdaughter is now heading up the salvage operation. The stepdaughter has a scandalous reputation – eloped with the family chauffeur at sixteen, married a phony count at eighteen – and since she’s fodder for the tabloids, a beautiful blond reporter and her tag-along cameraman manage to come along on the expedition. There are also a couple of survivors from the sunken yacht taking part.
Keene doesn’t wait long to get the action started. A dead body pops up on the third page, and that murder is only the first of several. Keene may be working from a standard plot, but he spins an intriguing, exciting yarn full of double crosses, hidden identities, and lust and greed. You can probably predict that sooner or later both of the beautiful babes are going to wind up naked in a fresh-water pool at the base of a waterfall on an idyllic South Pacific island, and you’d be right about that, but you probably won’t guess the neat twists that Keene springs late in the book.
PASSAGE TO SAMOA is a fine hardboiled adventure novel packing a lot of entertainment in its 144 pages, the sort of book that (all together now) they just don’t write anymore. If you run across a copy, grab it, and if it’s already sitting on your shelves unread and you’re looking for a couple of hours of fun, I highly recommend it.