Monday, November 18, 2013

Cached Out: A Book Review

There have been several fictional novels released recently that use geocaching as part of the story. The one I have read most recently is called Cached Out, by Russell Atkinson. I enjoyed it so much I thought I'd give it a book review for the benefit of my readers.

The Amazon description sums up the novel better than I can:

"Newly retired from the FBI and alone after the tragic death of his wife, Cliff Knowles takes up geocaching. While looking for a cache in the mountains he comes across a human skeleton and reports it to the sheriff's office. Then a second body is found - a fresh corpse this time - right after Cliff found another geocache nearby. When it turns out the first remains are those of a fugitive he was supposed to arrest years earlier, he becomes a suspect in a multiple homicide investigation. He has no choice but to use his sleuthing skills to identify the mysterious cache owner, known only as Enigmal, and free himself from suspicion."

When I read a novel based on a hobby, my two questions are:  "Is it a good story?" and "are the references to the hobby (geocaching, in this case) accurate?"  A good story with bad geocaching is no better than a bad story with good geocaching, so it has to be good on both counts to get high marks from me (a bad story with bad geocaching is simply pointless).

Regardless of whether one is a geocacher or not, this novel stands on its own.  The story is fast paced, the situations plausible, and the characters are interesting.  It is a real page turner.  It is, truth be told, one of the few books I have read (and I read a lot) that I did not want to put down. When I got to the end, I wanted more.  If it was a TV show I'd already be checking the schedules waiting for the next season to start.

Geocaching does play a central part in the story, and it is intricately woven into both the plot and the character development.  However, the geocaching is explained enough that I believe someone who is not familiar with geocaching would have no problem following the story, in the same vein as one does not have to be a lawyer to understand or enjoy a John Grisham novel.

That leaves us with the question of the accuracy of the geocaching.  I am an avid geocacher, and I am also rather pedantic. Inaccuracies in caching descriptions quickly cause me forget about the story and concentrate on the errors.  As a result, accuracy is vital for my enjoyment of a geocaching themed book.  Fortunately there is good news on this front.

The author of Cached Out is a geocacher himself, and it shows. His depictions of geocaching are, essentially, perfect.  Both descriptions of geocaching itself, and how the geocachers think, are exactly what I expect based on my extensive experience with geocaching and the geocaching community.  Many times during the story, and especially during the climax, I thought "yep, that is *exactly* how a geocacher would react." As a result I found that the geocaching in the novel allowed me to get more enjoyment out of the story. Think of it like a delicious gravy spread over Thanksgiving dinner.

So, in summary, as a murder mystery novel it is a good read, fun, quick paced, and enjoyable.  As a geocaching themed novel it is even better. It would make a fantastic stocking stuffer for the geocacher on your Christmas list.

You can get more information about the book at, including links to Amazon, and details on obtaining autographed copies.