Emerald Buddha, Russell Blake

At the end of Ramsey’s Gold┬áDrake Ramsey had discovered his real name and father, found a hidden treasure worth billions, led the CIA to a secret Nazi weapon hidden in the Amazon, survived a threat from former KGB agents, and made close friends with the survivors of his team.

This second book in the Drake Ramsey series picks up not long afterward. Drake has taken some of the reward funds put in trust to live a relaxed life surfing the Malibu coast. Some government agents bring him a dual offer. The most intriguing part for Drake is a rumor of a fabulous treasure stored deep in the Thai jungles around the time of the fall of Angkor Wat. Part of the treasure is the original Emerald Buddha, a sacred national symbol in Thailand. Along the way the agents hope Drake can also help locate a downed airplane that was carrying the daughter of a powerful U.S. Senator.

Drake manages to bring back together Allie and Spencer from the first book, Allie for the archeology and Spencer because he’s been spending his riches before all the trusts are available.

This starts them on an adventure into some nasty areas where both drug gangs and revolutionaries are hiding along the border between Thailand and Myanmar. They arrive at Bangkok to gather supplies and weapons then make their way through the jungle with frequent stops for shootouts. As they go it becomes more clear that the senator’s daughter was fleeing from China with her hacker boyfriend, who had found secret U.S. files that could be a scandal for quite a few powerful people.

As with the first book, Russell Blake writes both wonderful dialogue and great action scenes. The treasure hunting is loosely based around historic rumors surrounding the real Emerald Buddha of Thailand. The book is filled with oddball native characters, a former U.S. soldier now enjoying a life of Tai-chi and ganja as a minor drug producer, and CIA agents frustrated with their own bureaucracy. He also fills the book with fun details, like a hot satellite phone that can’t be powered for long because it had been owned by a terrorist targeted by drones and missiles.

It’s a fun and exciting book from a very productive thriller writer, one who’s written with Clive Cussler along with a string of solo best sellers. The relationship with Drake, Allie, and Spencer add some breathers into a tight plot and give the whole series a lighter feeling than a lot of thrillers on the market now.