Valverde's Gold: In Search of the Last Great Inca Treasure / Edition 1

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When Mark Honigsbaum discovers an ancient Spanish treasure guide buried in his research notebooks, he cannot help but be drawn into the legend of Valverde, a conquistador with a treasure trail that has proven fatal for the past 400 years. Undeterred by the cursed history of the gold, Honigsbaum embarks on an epic journey into the last uncharted range in the Andes—the Llanganati Mountains of eastern Ecuador. This is the story of how the lure of gold intoxicates even the most level-headed of historians, and of how men—and women—are seized with the desire to claim treasure from one of the most inhospitable landscapes in the world. Honigsbaum battles through mountains, jungles, and conflicting stories, and, as he draws closer to the hidden cache, illuminates the allure of lost gold and the hold it has on our imagination.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This treasure tale is true [and] dazzingly documented, with words to whet one's greed."—The Washington Times

"Glimpses of the pure, bracing thrill of the quest for lost treasure."—The Boston Globe

"[The story] skillfully walks the tightrope between serious research and action-packed adventure. . . . An astonishing detective thriller [with] a cast of unusual characters [that] never ceases to amuse . . . Anyone who has ever entertained the idea of seeking a lost Inca treasure would do well to read this book, not least because it introduces the awful reality of tropical cloud forest, and the indispensable need for hope, especially when the only certainty is defeat."—The Washington Post

Tahir Shah
Mark Honigsbaum, whose first book was the acclaimed The Fever Trail, was undeterred by the backdrop of death and chilled, vaporous mist. After hearing the stories on a previous journey to Ecuador, he decided to get to the bottom of the legend of Valverde's gold. The resulting story, which skillfully walks the tightrope between serious research and action-packed adventure, draws the reader into what can only be described as an astonishing detective thriller. The twists and turns form an intellectual puzzle of a kind, while its cast of unusual characters never ceases to amuse.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Journalist and historian Honigsbaum was on a research trip in 2000 to Banos, Ecuador, when he heard an intriguing tale: in a cave somewhere in the mountains northeast of Banos, a hoard of gold originally intended as part of the ransom for Inca emperor Atahualpa was said to have been hidden in 1533, and a document known as Valverde's Guide indicated how to find it. Fascinated, Honigsbaum pored through archives; the more he read, the more complex the story became. His recounting of his journey of discovery, about the guides and maps (there turn out to be many), is deliciously detailed and dense, as satisfying as any mystery, since he's genuinely stymied by the riddles he finds. His cast includes a botanist who harvests microscopic orchids resembling bumblebees, an aging Ecuadoran playboy who drinks and lies, and wary descendants of men who held the original treasure maps in their hands. Despite warnings that the treasure's a chimera and that the mountains are perilously labyrinthine, Honigsbaum eventually sets out to find the treasure. What he finds is a spellbinding climax to this tale of adventure and of the age-old lure of treasure. Maps and illus. not seen by PW. Agent, Derek Johns. (Aug.) Forecast: If Honigsbaum makes media appearances and can spin these yarns well, then it's a bullseye. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
British journalist/historian Honigsbaum (The Fever Trail) presents an intricate, intriguing account of a lost treasure of gold-the ransom, according to legend, demanded in 1532 by the Spanish for the release of the uncrowned Inca chief Atahualpa. When the Spanish treacherously murdered Atahualpa, his generals concealed the gold somewhere in the eastern Ecuadorian Andes. The treasure hoard was possibly rediscovered in 1887 by two English mariners, with the help of a guide by a former conquistador named Valverde. But both mariners died under suspicious circumstances, and the location of the gold has remained a mystery. Drawn by contemporary treasure hunters into a new search, Honigsbaum appealingly approaches this mystery with an excitement tempered by caution. As he discovers, however, a trustworthy trail of documents is lacking; indeed, the weakness of his account is that his documentation fails to support his narrative. Finally, after each trail leads to another dead end, Honigsbaum admits: "Rather than acknowledge the truth, I had twisted the facts to fit the story I wanted to hear." But the excitement of the search remains. Recommended for all public libraries.-Robert C. Jones, Warrensburg, MO Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Glorious adventure-in the library, on foot, and in the mind-in pursuit of gold hidden deep in the jungle. Far in the Ecuadorian highlands, legend has it, lies a hoard of gold, silver, and gems accumulated as ransom to save the life of the Inca's last ruler, Atahualpa. After his execution, the treasure was hidden away in a cave-and not just any old cave, but one lost in the punched and crumpled Andes, home of bogs and bugs, freezing white fog, skewering bamboo, endless rain, bears and lions. Guidebooks and maps, though cryptic and contradictory, claimed to offer sightings of this wealth, and occasional artifacts (which may or may not have been the fruits of the hoard) suggested there was at least a glint of truth to it all. While researching malaria (The Fever Trail, 2002), British journalist and historian Honigsbaum heard tell of the treasure and set out to gather all the information he could concerning its whereabouts. His enthralling work begins with sleuthing in the archives, then moves on to make contact with various characters (shady and otherwise) who have had loot on their minds for years, while also tracing a history of the various expeditions launched to recover the trove. Essaying the Sherlock Holmes style, Honigsbaum tries to decipher the more arcane clues: " 'Look for a cross and 4 to L,' I translated. 'Yes, but not only that. He said one of the sailors had also mentioned something about a sleeping woman.' " He even indulges in a bit of gratifying skullduggery ("first I had to convince him that I wasn't there to wheedle information out of him, which of course I was") before launching his own expedition on a shoestring . . . and unearthing little more than a bootlace. Theperfect fireside guide to the ages-old desire to find something hidden, perilous, and fabulous. Agent: Derek Johns/AP Watt
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312425180
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 10/1/2005
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark Honigsbaum is a journalist and historian. He lives in London with his wife and two children.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 4, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Terrific Concept; Poor Result

    Valverde's Gold is a first-hand experience of author Mark Honigsbaum's chase after a legend of lost Inca gold.

    The story includes legend, some myth, lost and partial treasure maps, and jungle exploration. Sounds pretty cool, right? Sadly Hongisbaum's journey becomes a confused mess of indistinguishable characters, eventless snippets of his investigation, and ultimately a sadly un-impactful conclusion.

    This might have been better if turned into fiction or perhaps a shorter story.

    I'm a very big fan of conquest-era Inca and Spanish, but was disappointed by and uninterested in this book.

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