Book Review: The Northland’s ‘Da Vinci Code’?
Jana Peterson Budgeteer News
Published Thursday, September 25, 2008
Released the same week as FinnFest, local author Jack Salmela’s “Of Vikings and Voyageurs” takes readers on a two-pronged voyage of discovery: historical and geographical.
Salmela starts the book 229 years ago, with voyageur Jean-Luc Trotin paddling like a madman through the notorious Hell’s Gate Rapids.
Right when you’re wondering whether Trotin will live to see another day, Salmela transports you to modern-day Duluth and a slightly less exciting adventure, as Tim Malone’s car hits a patch of ice and he almost loses control.
Like “The Da Vinci Code,” this book is a mystery complete with ancient artifacts and symbols to decode, threatening characters descended from dead scoundrels and relics from the time of Christ.
Unlike Dan Brown’s famous book, “Of Vikings and Voyageurs” takes place right here in the Northland.
Malone meets the eccentric Englishman Shelby Harrington in a room “the size of a small ballroom” at the Kitchi Gammi Club in Duluth.
After their meeting, Harrington notes that he is going to brave the elements with his driver, Nigel, and walk down to a restaurant called the Pickwick.
“We were intrigued by its English-sounding name,” Harrington tells Malone.
Malone and his friends visit the Kensington Rune Stone Museum in Alexandria, canoe North Hegman Lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA) and tour a mine north of Hibbing, all in an effort to find and decode signs left from the past pointing them to knowledge and treasure — and it’s hard to tell which is more valuable in the end.
Salmela, a born-and-bred Duluthian, said he did a lot of his research at Duluth’s public libraries and give special credit to “The Kensington Rune Stone: Compelling New Evidence,” by Scott Wolter and Richard Nielsen.
“BWCA canoeing experience was of utmost importance, especially in terms of knowing the region, its major flowages and describing the beauty of the wilderness,” he added in an e-mail to the Budgeteer.
In short, it’s a book I’d recommend to any Northlander. A good plot with plenty of twists and lots of tidbits about the land we love and live on — what better to curl up with on a wintry day up north?
“Of Vikings and Voyageurs” is available locally. If your group would like to have Salmela talk about his book, contact him at 218-724-2902.