Tom Cooper’s The Marauders was set up to be something I would really enjoy. My library bills it as a Mystery, and its jacket implies that as well, but it’s really not. Marauders is a story about a small town in Louisiana, just after the BP oil spill ravaged the gulf waters and destroyed an entire generation’s livelihood in one explosion.
The central character in The Marauders is Gus Lindquist, a one-armed fisherman out of Jeanette, LA, who has spent his life searching for the long lost treasure of the pirate Jean Lafitte. The accident that took his arm has also left him with a whopping pill addiction; his other addiction – treasure hunting – has left him with an ex-wife and a disinterested daughter and few friends. In his search for the treasure, Gus will come in contact with a slew of interesting characters perfect for a tale about Louisiana bayou life. There is the BP employee just trying to get these fisherman to sign away their rights to sue the oil company in the future, the father and son fishing team striving to maintain a relationship and home after the drowning death of the wife/mother during Katrina, the twin Toup brothers who take advantage of the remote, unappealing swamp to grow a ton of pot, and a pair of idiots just trying to make a quick buck after doing court-ordered community service.
The novel is written well and has plenty of positive reviews on Goodreads and other sites. Cooper writes characters a lot like Carl Hiaasen but with less actual humor. In fact I kept thinking to myself that Hiassen could have written a much more compelling mystery about this place and these people. Gus and his posse are intriguing and elicit sympathy or disdain quite easily from the reader. However, this book doesn’t really have a compelling plot. There isn’t really a central mystery that I can discern, unless it’s whether Gus will ever find the elusive Lafitte treasure. There’s some violence and peril, more from the natural environment than any particular character. The ‘thrilling’ part of this story is all down to willful misunderstandings and so it’s less engaging. And, Gus isn’t all that likeable; when he is in danger I found it hard to worry about him.
For a first novel, I think Cooper has done well. There’s a blurb on the cover from Stephen King, so that should earn him some interest. I might have enjoyed this novel more if it was presented differently, as more of a day-in-the-life of struggling but quirky Louisiana fishermen.