The quest for Incan treasure and the skullduggery to which the promise of ancient gold will drive a man (or several men) are the twin themes of this vehicle for South-of-the-Border private eye Al Colby. A nortéamericano, and a typical fictional tough guy of his time, Colby roams the Andean region in search of cases that add a bit of spice to his hard-boiled life. Here, a shady old collector named Alfredo Berrien hires him to guard a small package during an ocean voyage from Chile to Peru. The package, he discovers after Berrien dies of mysterious causes aboard their ship, contains part of an old manuscript, and the manuscript provides directions to sites where the last Incans concealed their fabled cache of gold from Spanish conquerors.
There’s very little mystery in the routine chase plot that follows, and there isn’t much detection, either. The identity of the villains—the chief one being an all-American thug named Jefferson (“Jeff,” to friends and enemies alike)—quickly becomes apparent. Suspense therefore hinges on exactly how Colby will keep the wrong people from grabbing the lost gold before he does. Dodge’s prose is crisp, though, and the level of his wit and characterization rises above the norm for this kind of story. Like the preceding Colby yarn, The Long Escape, this adventure concludes not with an action sequence but with an offbeat romantic coda. The hero, otherwise a very tough customer, proves to be a soft touch for a vivacious criatura (an indentured servant woman) who desires her freedom more than she does either him or any amount of buried treasure.