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Secrets of the Gold by Baer Charlton 

With two engaging lead characters and a plot that zooms along, I didn’t want to put this one down! 

After losing her parents at nine years old, she was moved from one foster home to another, each as bad or worse than the one before. So at 17, when she got the chance to run, she did and found safety in a most unexpected place. 

Duff had regained consciousness lying facedown in a pool of greasy water and his own blood. Three bullets to the torso had not done the job because of the odd leather jacket he wore; the lining concealed 88 flat gold ingots, which saved his life by acting like a bulletproof vest. However, the trauma stole from him any memories of his past; his only clues were the identity cards and licenses in his wallet and the vintage Indian motorcycle parked nearby. He had no idea where the gold came from and why he’d been shot and left to die, and he spent the following three years driving trucks around the country for cash, hiding under the radar, and hoping his memory would return. 

While eating at the local diner before pushing on to the next job, a young girl whipped in the door and settled on the stool beside him at the counter. She frantically begged him to tell the men on her tail that he was her uncle and they were traveling together. Something in her manner and fear-tinged eyes urged him to comply, and soon two deputies arrived. Convinced by the hasty cover story, they were quickly out the door to continue their search for ‘the runaway.’ The girl told Duff the bare bones of her story and begged him to take her with him on his motorcycle before her pursuers had second thoughts and returned. So began Bean and Duff’s journey together, with him trying to remember and her trying to forget. 

Secrets of the Gold was such an exciting and entertaining story, with two wonderful main characters, and filled with satisfying moments, mystery, and suspense. While Bean is 17 as the story opens, Duff is in his mid-thirties: theirs is not a romantic love story, but there is love and trust throughout. I immediately fell for these two damaged individuals, completely invested in their fates. 

The author tells a compelling story that includes Bean’s and Duff’s growing parent-child type relationship, their travels through the southwestern United States, and the slowly unfolding mystery of Duff’s near death. I liked how he skillfully slipped in information in the form of small impressions the characters’ have, which reveal more of their backstories. For example, when considering Bean’s acquisition of an old motorcycle, Ingrid, the tutor, quietly flashes back to a fatality motorcycle accident she alone survived. Another subtle thing Charlton does is include interesting bits of randomness as details in conversations. These pieces of trivia, such as those about coffee, added some fun dimension to the characters’ interactions and were enlightening as well. Dialogue between characters was snappy, with a lot of witty banter and some fun “taking things literally” smart-alecky exchanges. Bean, Ingrid, Leon, and Duff talked like family. 

The plot zooms along at a steady pace but then really kicks up a notch when the resolution starts getting closer. There were twists as things started happening, and I couldn’t put this book down! 

I recommend SECRETS OF THE GOLD to readers who enjoy mystery, suspense, and talk of vintage motorcycles. 

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours.

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