This section contains reviews of books by David Hayes and members of the forum

Review: The Beckoning Ice by Joan Druett

The Beckoning IceThe Beckoning Ice is a mystery novel and, as you would expect from award winning historian Joan Druett, an extremely well written nautical novel as well. The plot of a great mystery novel must twist and turn and be totally unpredictable until the final pages and this is fully achieved in a hard to put down narrative.

Druett has  created a great detective in Wiki Coffin with a complex family background which enables him to be the outsider when the plot demands it and it's good to see a new book in the series after a lengthy gap. He is half-Maori, half-Yankee "linguister," who also serves  as the fleet representative of American law and order for the United States Exploring Expedition.

The story is set against a background of their work in the area of Cape Horn and when a sealing schooner hails the brig Swallow with a strange tale of a murdered corpse on an iceberg an investigation begins. The rivalries of the officers of the various ships lead to there being plenty of suspects for Wiki to investigate. 

Combining historical and nautical accuracy with a fast paced mystery thriller has produced a marvelous book which is highly recommended.

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Review: The Tainted Prize by M. C. Muir

The Tainted PrizeThe Tainted Prize sees the return of Captain Oliver Quintrell now in command of the frigate HMS Perpetual and once again tasked with a special mission to the southern seas by the Admiralty. His orders are to find a missing frigate even if he has to follow it all the way to the Pacific and there are some unexpected encounters on the voyage as well as some diplomacy needed.

He is joined on the voyage by some familiar characters from the previous book, Floating Gold, as well as some new ones. The book follows both officers and members of the crew, particularly an escaped slave, Eku, and a powder monkey, Tommy Wainwright. Muir's charecterisations are excellent and I particularly enjoyed Wainright's interactions with the Captain. In Quintrell we have a very believable captain. He does not make friends within his crew but an ordinary humane person who is well respected. 

All aspects of the story, the characters lives, seamanship, the conditions encountered and the history are well written and woven into a very believable and easy to read plot. Highly recommended.

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Richard Spilman Review: The Beckoning Ice by Joan Druett

The Beckoning IceOriginally published on the The Old Salt Blog

Joan Druett's The Beckoning Ice, the fifth in her series of Wiki Coffin nautical mysteries, begins in 1839, on the sealer Betsey of Stonington, homeward bound from "a short but very profitable season far south of Cape Horn." The schooner is very nearly wrecked on a massive iceberg, which looms suddenly out of the fog. The terror of nearly hitting the ice island is only made worse by the corpse of a man, apparently bludgeoned to dead, frozen on a ledge on the face of the ice.

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Richard Spilman Review: The Tainted Prize by M. C. Muir

The Tainted PrizeOriginally published on the The Old Salt Blog

The Tainted Prize is Margaret Muir's second book of the Oliver Quintrell series. After sending Captain Quintrell to the bottom of the world in pursuit of Floating Gold, the admiralty is confident in the good captain's discretion. It is 1803. The Peace of Amiens has collapsed. Captain Quintrell is given command of the frigate HMS Perpetual and is set off on a secret mission to South America to search for a missing frigate and to undertake a diplomatic mission that might impact the outcome of the war with Bonaparte and France. In addition to coping with French corvettes, privateers and slavers, Quintrell and the officers and crew of HMS Perpetual must also face the Southern Ocean and the winding and treacherous Straits of Magellan.

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Joan Druett Review: Hell Around the Horn by Rick Spilman

Hell Around the HornThose Gallant Seamen Get their Story Told at Last

Ringing with authenticity, this nail-biter is a tale of battling wind and weather to sail from the Atlantic to the Pacific via the most dreaded landmark in the sailor's lexicon, Cape Horn.

Stories of ships in the Age of Sail are usually told from the quarterdeck, and the fight is against other ships. Rick Spilman's novel, by contrast, revisits the windjammer era when men fought the elements with just rope and canvas, using muscle and willpower to get a freight to a destination. In the tradition of old salts who once wrote hugely popular stories of life under sail -- men like "Shalimar" (F. C. Hendry), Captain F. Coffin, Jan de Hartog and Alexander Bone -- "Hell Around the Horn" tells it like it was for the ordinary people who lived unthinkably dangerous lives at sea, from the point of view of the foc'sle and the half-deck, as well as the cabin.

Based on real events, this is the story of one captain's struggle to get his ship to port, with just his seafaring knowledge and his increasingly weary crew to help, and with the added problem of a bloodyminded mate. A detail I particularly liked was that he had his wife and family with him. Spilman reveals her experiences through her letters, which are as convincingly written as the rest of the book.

Thoroughly recommended to all salt water souls, armchair sailors in particular.

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Review: When Washington Burned by Arnold Blumberg

When Washington BurnedAs someone with an interest in naval history I have read both fiction and non fiction works about the various sea battles of the War of 1812 and of the naval campaigns on the Great Lakes. However whilst I was aware that there was fighting on the Canadian border, that the British invaded and burnt Washington and there was a battle for New Orleans I had not read a work that covered the whole war and put the various battles on land and sea both in a chronological order and within the political and strategic aims of both sides.

Without drowning me in too much detail, When Washington Burned by Arnold Blumberg proved to be an excellent overview of the reasons both sides had to go to war and then ultimately seek to end what was really a pointless conflict. The battle information included brief histories of the commanding officers involved, the units involved, main manoeuvres and casualties all accompanied by plenty of contemporary illustrations and some maps.

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