Thursday, October 3, 2019

The Expansion - Book Review

The Monumental Job of Expanding the Panama Canal

Book Title:  The Expansion

Author: Christoph Martin (Zollinger)
Publication Date: 2017
Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Publish Date: 2017
Editor:  Libby O’Loghlin

Main Characters:

Husband: Ed Burns
Wife: Helen Burns
Son: Alan
Son: Max
Max’s School Buddy: Godfredo
Max’s Fiancee: Sarah Beauvois
Paco (Fransisco) Roco
Godfredo Roco

Prologue I

Location: Surrey England 1993

The Events of one evening which include a nighttime escape - by a helicopter piloted by Ed Burns.

They bring their son Alan up in conversation and there are indications that he may be handicapped.

Prologue II

Location: Zuoz Swiss Alps

We meet Max and his friend Godfredo while they are on the slope skiing near their boarding school.


How would you react?

This book draws you in quickly with a nighttime helicopter escape.

Leaving their large group of dinner guests behind in what must be an enormous estate Ed and Helen Burns have a disjointed conversation while Ed pilots the helicopter.

The helicopter and the dialog relating to Helen’s diamond necklace shows they must be wealthy.

The author does not dwell on events that are not central to the story-line. He does not waste our time.

The editing is superb. Tight dialog, tight scenes, short chapters to keep the steady drumbeat of the plot.

Chapter Two is a scene at Professor Moyle's apartment.

Here we meet Alex (Alexandra Wong) and Gian Taricco, both engineers that graduate from college with Dr. Max Burns. All three have worked on projects together throughout their college years.

The crux of the tension is presented in the conversations.

The Panama Canal is being expanded. Professor Moyle would like his star pupils to attend to this grand once-in-a-lifetime project. He is pushing them to accept the challenge and submit a proposal for the project within the six-month time frame.

Max is a geomatics engineer.

This type of engineer is involved in everything involving spatial considerations such as utilities, land, communications. Almost everything an engineer would find in building an expansion to the Panama Canal. Max is a Doctor of Science and just finished his last lecture as the book opens.

How the locks work

In Chapter One we are introduced to Sarah, Max’s fiancee and the daughter of Max’s soon to be employer. They have spent eight years together preparing for marriage and for Max to work for her father.

The gathering at Professor Moyle’s displays the quandary Max is in. He has promised to marry Sarah and to work for her father, the head of Beauvoir Construction at the end of the month.
How is that going to work if he follows his classmates and flies to Panama for the six months to research and present a proposal to expand the Miraflores Locks and Miraflores Lake.

An expansion of the locks did begin in 2007 and was completed in 2016. While this is not a tale of the actual expansion it serves as the backdrop to our story.

The story shifts to Paco and Godfredo. Paco heads CISCO Construction company that has built many of the major bridges in Europe.

Paco is a bully and treats his son as a lackey. He may project a smooth sophisticated demeanor to outsiders but we know, from incidents at a boarding school that Paco is a brutal overlord with his son.

Paco entices Godfredo to hire his old school mate as the chief engineer and Alex and Gian as two of Max’s assistants.

There is a six-month period when all the research has to be completed and the proposals submitted to the Panama Canal Authority.

The author spent a decade working in Panama so he expertly develops the layout of Panama for us. 

From the old town of Casco Viejo to the harbor where the massive super ships transport containers all over the world, he gives us the ‘real’ Panama. When he describes the heat and humidity you also start sweating thru your shirt.

With a project as immense as the expansion of the Miraflores Locks you would expect plots and plots within plots. You will not be disappointed. While these side-trips add to the interest of the main plot they do not overshadow or slow the pace.

The editor keeps the plot and character development moving along at a good pace. Not galloping but fast enough that boredom does not have a chance to rest on the shoulders of the reader.

You would expect the United States to be involved in the expansion and so they are.  The U.S. took over the construction of the Panama Canal from France. In 1977 President Jimmy Carter signed the custodianship of the locks over to the government of Panama with the proviso that the U.S. would still control the defense of the canal.

In the book, you would also expect the Germans and Chinese to be involved in the expansion. The Chinese start the work of building a competing canal throughout Nicaragua.

Oh yes, you would expect CIA involvement also, right? Well, you are correct again!

I am afraid to say more or I will give away plot lines and the more interesting of character traits.

I hope you find this book and spend a few hours to read thru it.

It has all the makings of a good suspense novel written by an expert hand and guided by an excellent editor.

One of the best novels I have read. I will be re-reading it again in a few years.

The Panama Canal is one of the wonders of the world. While not as big as the Suez Canal it is mammoth in size and tonnage. You can read all of the fascinating technical and historical data here.

Word count 935
Read Time 3 min 40 sec

Craig Martineau

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