Sound like some kind of Indiana Jones movie? You'd not be far off. These are the plot elements of Berkely Mather's third ripping yarn, The Gold of Malabar (1967), once again set in India but this time dealing with a legendary lost treasure of gold ingots dating back to 1941 in the days of Japanese occupation in the East Indies.
While serving time in a prison in Goa Mike O'Reilly strikes up an acquaintance with a dying old Dutch prisoner named Rokkjer. He entrusts to O'Reilly a gold medal and tells him to take it to a Buddhist monk named Nu Pau in Bombay. He is convinced that O'Reilly will be able to escape and get this done. when he meets the monk he is to tell him, "Rokkjer said to keep faith." He makes O'Reilly swear to do this and just as he is about to die manages to get out the following cryptic last words: "Pythagoras, northeast, and the word is try, try, try..." Rokkjer's body is buried in the cemetery conveniently located just outside the prison walls near an even more convenient cliff. O'Reilly is on burial duty. Guess who manages to dig a grave, bury the corpse and take flight by bravely and stupidly jumping off the cliff in the ocean? O'Reilly survives the jump, a barrage of bullets, and near drowning. Luckily he is rescued by some peasant fisherman and the boat he ends up in just happens to be headed for Bombay. His luck is soon to run out though his adventure leds him into a treacherous world of greedy looters all looking for the map that will lead to the hidden cache of gold
|UK 1st edition ( Collins, 1967)|
O'Reilly at first seems like he wants the partnership but the danger escalates and he risks his life multiple times, endures horrible injuries, and is finally burdened with a mortally wounded Nu Pau. He begins to think all would be easier if he dumped Nu Pau in a village and went for the treasure by himself. The story takes on the essence of Traven's Treasure of the Sierra Madre as everyone seems to want the all the gold for himself. Will O'Reilly get his hands on the gold? Or will his conscience get the better of him? The ending is something of a surprise and was more than satisfying.
Entertaining, educational (more insight into Indian history and culture) and enlivening The Gold of Malabar is one of the best real adventure novels from the late 1960s. I enthusiastically recommend this one to all devotees of the rousing ripping yarn.
Previously reviewed on this blog The Pass Beyond the Kashmir also by Berkely Mather.