Age Range
Release Date
September 26, 2023
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Valdez Jones VIII calls himself Wrecker because his great-great-great-great-great-grandfather salvaged shipwrecks for a living.

So is it destiny, irony, or just bad luck when Wrecker comes across a speedboat that has run hard aground on a sand flat? The men in the boat don't want Wrecker to call for help—in fact, they'll pay him to forget he ever saw them.

Wrecker would be happy to forget, but he keeps seeing these men all over Key West—at the marina, in the cemetery, even right outside his own door. And now they want more than his silence—they want a lookout.

He'll have to dive deep into their shady dealings to figure out a way to escape this tangled net. . . .

Editor review

1 review
How to beat a smuggler
(Updated: August 21, 2023)
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
What worked:
Wrecker’s home life is a bit complicated as his father left to become a famous country singer. His mother has remarried and she’s a high-maintenance wife, although his wealthy stepfather is able to afford her numerous plastic surgeries. It was mutually decided that Wrecker would be better off living somewhere else so he’s currently sharing a place with his stepsister Suzanne. She’s forced to use a wheelchair but that doesn’t stop her from staying involved in protesting for environmental issues. Wrecker is given a lot of independence so much of his free time is spent fishing in the ocean and helping others. He’s pretty much a loner but he’s okay with that.
Wrecker tries to set an impressive example of honesty and empathy for others. He knows there’s something wrong about taking money from the men on the boat and he’s uncomfortable spending it on anything he might want. He helps an old man by visiting the local cemetery every day to clean iguana poop off his sister’s gravestone. He makes time to join Suzanne’s various protests and environmental efforts. Unfortunately, fear of Silver Mustache, a shady character forcing Wrecker to take money, finds Wrecker getting himself into deeper and deeper trouble. However, Wrecker does all he can to keep Willi, a classmate from school, from getting mixed up in his problems. In the end, he also shows readers that he’s one clever young man.
Willi is a highlight of the story as she comes with an air of mystery. She injects herself into Wrecker’s life and her flirtatious manner adds some levity to the events. She then turns around and doesn’t respond to Wrecker’s texts and phone calls leaving him worrying about her safety. She shares very little about her home life, but at one point, she says something about having trouble with a boy in her life. The truth about this problem opens up issues related to other issues in the book. Perhaps Willi and Wrecker will have a relationship beyond friends when everything’s said and done, but maybe not.
What didn’t work as well:
There might be too much going on than is necessary. Wrecker has his dysfunctional family dynamics, there’s Silver Mustache guy, Willi and her problems, protest efforts to keep large boats away, stories of people buried in the cemetary, the Co-vid pandemic, and Wrecker’s family’s past as treasure divers. All of these things are interesting but perhaps there could be a couple less.
The Final Verdict:
The author weaves criminals, racism, family, friends, and environmental activism into a cohesive, enjoyable story. Maybe there’s too much going on but the focus on Wrecker is worth any distractions. Overall, it’s a highly entertaining book and I recommend you give it a shot.
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