THE SUNKEN SECRET is a novel, self-published by diver and writer Cristian Perfumo, who hails from Argentina but now lives in Australia. It had been selling for a while in the original Spanish when, in 2014, the author launched a Kickstarter campaign to get his work professionally translated into English.
The campaign was successful, and credit should go to translator Stephen Logan for doing a great job – you would never know that this was a translation.
It’s a clever thriller, set in remote Patagonia in southern Argentina and riffing around the true story of the wreck of HMS Swift, an 18th century British warship that sank off Puerto Deseado, Perfumo’s birthplace.
Three young men who dive in the area, one an instructor, get caught up in an urgent search for the wreck and soon clash with less well-intentioned divers.
The eventual explanation for all the murderous activity that ensues is ingenious, a political step away from the usual underwater treasure hunt.
The hero Marcelo does seem to be mature way beyond his 18 years (closer to Perfumo’s age, perhaps?) but the dialogue is believable, the details of small-town life in Argentina interesting and the characters reasonably well-rounded.
I also liked the fact that diving details are casually absorbed into the flow rather than standing out like footnotes for non-divers, as they often do in dive-related novels.
While I could have done with a bit more actual diving content (I realise that this is my own problem, always to be looking for more diving content!) The Sunken Secret has pace, light and shade and a satisfying shape to it. Recommended.
Steve Weinman

ISBN: 9781515156239
Softback, 280pp, £9.19