Maryland writer Jack B. Downs’ premier novel, Buried Treasure, is as much an examination of internal growth as it is an intriguing mystery story. For mystery book enthusiasts, it’s definitely a unique storyline. One of the more engaging aspects of the novel is that the protagonists are not the detective-characters that so often accompany a mystery plot. Rather, the story is told through the perspective of two boys touched by a tragedy that would alter their lives forever.
The novel’s catalyst is the kidnapping of a child at a park on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. In four pages of vivid description, Downs sets the stage for a family drama. The story’s core mystery is not only the abduction, but how the Paxton family will wrestle with the unanswered question of what happened to their child. Set in the '60s, the plot follows the brothers of missing David: James (17) and Dylan (12). The kidnapping caused their parents to split apart, forcing them to live with their grandmother in their small town. It is in this small town that rumors abound about the incident, and the boys find themselves outcasts because of their unusual living situation. After years of drinking and despair for losing David, James and Dylan’s father, Sam, returns in an attempt to reconstruct the family. It is during this trying period that the suicide of a neighbor yields clues about what happened to David. These subtle hints lead the brothers on a quest for revelation and closure. It is a daring story that begs the question whether it is ever too late for a family destroyed by tragedy to heal.
Buried Treasure is a story that draws the readers in with the mystery and holds them with the compelling lives of the characters on the pages. Some mystery novels focus on a particular case or incident, Buried Treasure does the reverse. While David’s kidnapping is a vital aspect of the story, the core of the novel is how James and Dylan deal with the repercussions of the abduction. The mystery is way more gripping in its connection to the characters’ lives. A credit to Downs' style is that he has sculpted 3-dimensional people rather than just characters. James and Dylan read like actual young men dealing with the burdens of youth, facing situations that we as the audience can relate to. Imbedded throughout the pages is a coming-of-age-story that is relatable to all readers.
Reading through the book, it is very clear that Jack B. Downs is an avid storyteller. He brings to his craft not only a realistic depth, but a degree of description that absorbs the reader into the scene. The story takes the reader from the small town of Crane Ridge, Maryland to rural Darien, Georgia. Not only does he describe these settings in a way that is tangible to the reader’s mind, but also realistic. In many sections the story reads like a 1960s scene, including character diction and references to media and events of the time.
In our interview, Downs related that as a father himself there is nothing scarier than losing one’s child. The lack of closure alone would be very devastating. It is such raw emotional realism that Downs captures perfectly in the text. Yet, Downs didn’t write a pure tragedy. The characters presented may in some ways be broken, but through the course of the novel they grow, they fix themselves. Fear, shame, and pain are instrumental and inevitable factors of life. The novel is very much about overcoming these obstacles and is paralleled by James and Dylan discovering the truth about David.
Buried Treasure will draw any reader interested in strong characters and adventure. Young adults will likely be even more drawn to it, as they will be closer in age to identify with the characters. You can learn more about the novel and its author at http://www.jackbdowns.com/.