Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime

Today’s post is on The Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime by Miles Harvey. It is 405 pages long including notes and it published by Random House. The cover has the title and author’s name in a frame like a map legend. The intended reader is someone who is interested in cartography, true crime, and history. There is no language, no sex, and no violence in this book. The story is told from the first person perspective of the author. There Be Spoilers Ahead.

From the dust jacket- The Island of Lost Maps is the story of a curious crime spree: the theft of scores of valuable centuries-old maps from some of the most prominent research libraries in the United States and Canada. The perpetrator was the Al Capone of cartography, a man with the unlikely name of Gilbert Bland, Jr., an enigmatic antiques dealer from south Florida whose cross-country slash-and-dash operation went virtually undetected until he was caught in December 1995.
This is also the spellbinding story of author Miles Harvey’s quest to understand America’s greatest map thief, a chameleon who changed careers and families without ever looking back. Gilbert Bland was a cipher, a blank slate- for Harvey, journalistic terra incognita. Filling in Bland’s life was like filling in a map, and grew from an investigation into an intellectual adventure.
Harvey listens to the fury of the librarian from whom Bland stole. He introduces us to America’s foremost map mogul, a millionaire maverick who predicted the boom in map collecting. He retraces Bland’s life, from his run-ins with the law to his troubled service in Vietnam. And finally, with the aid of an FBI agent, Harvey discovers the Island of Lost Maps. The deeper Miles Harvey investigates, the more we are drawn into this fascinating subculture of collectors, experts, and enthusiasts, all of them gripped by an obsession both surreal and sublime. Capturing that passion in perfect pitch, The Island of Lost Maps is an intriguing story of exploration, craftsmanship, villains, and the lure of the unknown.

Review- I found this book fascinating. I love history, true crime, and maps myself. I live near the ocean so I understand that siren call of the sea. I am a librarian so I understand the outrage about what Bland did. And I like well written books, this was one. Harvey takes the reader on a strange journey through time from the beginning of map making to the most modern methods to mapping the sea floor. The thief Gilbert Bland is not really important to the story. He is why it was started, he did steal from students, researches, and the tax payers, but he is not really important. I felt that was just like his life. Bland was there but not really important. That has caused pain to his family but Bland does not really care about that either. Harvey is much more interesting than Bland. Bland hid from everyone, Harvey goes to meet new people to learn more about maps from. Bland did not care about the maps or map making. Harvey finds insiders who are willing to give him some of their time so that he can understand. Bland is very boring. Harvey is moving, learning, and all in all much more interesting. Read this book for Harvey, the maps, and history because just like in his life Gilbert Bland is just not there.

I give this book a Five out of Five stars. I get nothing for my review and I borrowed this book from my local library.