A vacation to the historic city of St. Augustine, Florida, quickly turns deadly for brothers Jon and Michael Rickner as an antiquities dealer is brutally murdered in his shop just minutes after meeting with them. Moments later, Jon and Michael discover an original Edison wax cylinder recording in the wreckage of the shop, one detailing the first step of an audacious treasure hunt devised by 19th-century railroad magnate Henry Flagler to lure rich tourists to his Florida resorts.
But the hunt, abandoned by Flagler on the eve of its announcement, is not as straightforward as it seems. For the tycoon’s innovative attraction is tied to a priceless relic hidden by 16th-century Conquistadors and paid for in blood.
The Rickner brothers are not alone in their quest for Flagler’s prize. Caeden Monk – an infamous treasure hunter exiled from the archaeological community for his destructive methods – and his devious assistant are also on the trail, and they will stop at nothing to claim the prize for themselves.
Diving headlong into a breakneck pursuit of the truth, Jon and Michael must outwit Monk, discover the secret behind Flagler’s abandoned treasure hunt, and unravel a deadly riddle hidden for centuries in the very foundations of America’s oldest city before an unfathomable treasure is lost forever.
The Big Thrill spent some time with bestselling author Jeremy Burns learning more about his latest thriller, THE FLAGLER HUNT:
No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?
Many scenes from the novel are directly inspired by real-life adventures I’ve had, from a near-death experience atop the highest mountain in Vermont to my boyhood explorations of the nation’s oldest stone masonry fortress. Beyond that, a lot of site research went into the book, and I explored every location that my characters did. I hope that sense of authenticity shines through in transporting readers to the mythical streets of St. Augustine.
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope they have fun. This is the most briskly paced novel I’ve yet written, lean and mean from the word go. But at its core, it’s an old-fashioned adventure novel, with a mystery-filled treasure hunt through some fascinating locations, an antagonist who is as skilled as he is hateable, a band of likeable but flawed protagonists, and more than a few multi-layered twists. Plus, readers of my nationally bestselling debut, From the Ashes, should get a kick out of seeing Jon and Michael adventuring together in this prequel, as their relationship provided the background impetus for Jon’s quest in that book.
How does this book make a contribution to the genre?
For one, I believe this is the first book in this subgenre to be set in America’s oldest city, which I think is a shame. There’s so much rich history in St. Augustine, much of it unexplored in fiction. Until now, that is.
I think the focus of this book’s design is also somewhat refreshing. While many books of this ilk (including From the Ashes, and, especially, my upcoming book The Founding Treason) are expansive in breadth and scope, with conspiracies entangling high-level powerbrokers, THE FLAGLER HUNT takes place in one city over the course of one day. The stakes are high, the action comes fast, and the plotting is laser-focused while still offering more than a few twists.
What attracts you to this book’s genre?
I’ve loved all things historical from a very young age, something that St. Augustine itself likely had a hand in. From DuckTales to the Hardy Boys to Indiana Jones, mysteries and conspiracies have also long captured my imagination. Travel, exploration, puzzles, and discovery, too, are lifelong passions of mine.
This subgenre is the perfect encapsulation of everything I love about fiction. There’s just something fascinating about the allure of the past, of knowledge forgotten, treasures lost, and secrets long hidden. It can be considerably more challenging than writing in many other thriller subgenres, as the book has to work on several extra levels, but I relish the opportunity to concoct historical secrets from real facts, tie them purposefully to the present-day plot, and devise clever ways for those secrets to be unveiled. Plus, they’re incredibly fun to research!
Was there anything new you discovered, or that surprised you, as you wrote this book?
I’m always amazed at how interconnected history can be. While this didn’t surprise me quite as much in this book as it did in The Founding Treason, there were quite a few parts in the historical record that synced up with the conspiracy I was weaving more easily than I had anticipated.
Beyond that, I was surprised at a large number of historical and geographic facts that I discovered during my research — and, of course, proceeded to weave into the story. For example, the prologue alone reveals how, were it not for a hurricane and a merciless Spanish admiral, Florida might have been a French colony.
I was also surprised to learn how Henry Morrison Flagler, who was integral to the modernization of St. Augustine in the late 19th century, mythologized much of his “return to the past” civic projects in the city, creating a fascinating mishmash of architectural styles and urban planning unlike any other I’ve found. There were plenty more fascinating discoveries, of course, but I’ll save those for readers to discover on their own in the book itself.
Jeremy Burns is the nationally bestselling author of The Founding Treason (coming May 28, 2019), THE FLAGLER HUNT, The Dubai Betrayal, and From the Ashes. He is a lifelong storyteller and explorer whose travels have taken him to more than twenty countries across four continents. He has gained some unique professional experiences alongside his writing career, including working as an international educator in Dubai, a law enforcement consultant, a Walt Disney World cast member, and a journalist, writing for a number of award-winning publications on topics ranging from global terrorism to haunted asylums to end-time prophecies. He holds degrees in history, business, and computer science, and has far more interests than can possibly be healthy. He lives in Florida with his wife, son, and two dogs, where he is working on his next book.
To learn more about Jeremy and his work, please visit his website.