Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Red Turtle Project

The Red Turtle Project
by Don Westenhaver

(Xlibris / 0-738-86648-2 / 978-0-738-86648-2 / April 2001 / 437 pages / $24.99 / Kindle $2.00)

Reviewed by Lloyd Lofthouse for PODBRAM

The main plot for The Red Turtle Project is a fascinating concept and for that reason, I stayed with the story until I finished reading the book. Sam and Liang Weber are the main characters. Sam is a former Vietnam Veteran and earned enough money over the years from the oil industry to live a comfortable life with his wife in Paso Robles near the Pacific Ocean close to William Randolph Hearst's San Simeon.

Sam met his wife while he was in Vietnam during the war—sort of like the musical Miss Saigon but with a happy conclusion. They fall in love, lose contact with each other in the turmoil of the war's final days and meet again seventeen year later. This information is dealt with quickly in a few pages.

As the story opens, Liang's father, Sing Han, is murdered in Singapore. He leaves his daughter a fortune earned from legitimate businesses funded by previous criminal activities. Chinese Mandarins in Hong Kong had him killed. They are in the process of stealing the business empire Sing built, which is worth close to a billion dollars.

However, Liang's father discovered what was going on before his death and managed to hide five-hundred million around the world in various accounts. The Hong Kong Mandarins, worth billions from organized crime, are angry and they want that money. There is no limit to their greed and cruelty. They send killers to find who has the money with instructions to torture or kill anyone that gets in the way.

What Sam and Liang decide to do with the money after her father's death is what holds this story together. The couple goes to Vietnam and offers to use the fortune to help Vietnam recover from the war with America that left the country economically destitute. The title for the book is also the name for the project they fund. The Red Turtle Project is designed to build a market economy in Vietnam from the ground up instead of trickling down from the wealthy.

There are times that the story drags with too many descriptions and loose plot threads, and I found myself skipping paragraphs and some pages to catch up with the main story that involves the Hong Kong Mandarins and their endless thirst for money and power.

There were scenes in Europe that did not ring true when the killers from Hong Kong were searching for Sam and Liang. These thugs are threatening hotel mangers to gain information about Sam and Liang's whereabouts, and the police never get involved. It was as if there were no police and the thugs were free to do whatever they wanted to anyone.

There are other plot threads too, like the one with Gabriella, the daughter. This thread could have been woven better with the main plot. Gabriella is attending the University of California at San Diego as a sophomore. For a time, we join Gabriella during a romance that has nothing to do with the main story. Later Gabriella, after an attempted suicide, joins her parents in Vietnam.

Then there's another loose thread with a character named Harry Collins, a POW who escaped from a North Vietnamese prison decades earlier and has hidden out in the jungles of North Vietnam ever since. I'm not sure why he was in the story, and I imagined better ways to use this character to propel the plot forward. Maybe Harry should have had his own book.

If the flaws I discovered in the story were fixed, this could be a four-star read.

See also: The Author's Amazon Page
PODBRAM Review of Nero's Concert

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