A WATERY GRAVE
Joan Druett

 


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Allen & Unwin. This Edition first published July 2007
Reviewed by Sally Roddom

Twenty-four year old Wiki Coffin is the illegitimate son of a New England sea captain and a Maori woman; he is now based in the USA. He has signed on as a linguist on a US exploratory expedition through the South Seas, looking for trade routes and artifacts. As the fleet sets sail from Virginia, Wiki is left behind. He has been arrested for the murder of Ophelia Stanton, the wealthy daughter-in-law of a local plantation owner. Wiki quickly proves his innocence and is released to join his ship. The local sheriff believes the real murderer is part of the expedition and requests that Wiki investigate. The sheriff’s hunch is proved, as suspicious deaths occur on board, and other people just disappear. Just who murdered Ophelia, and what has this got to do with the expedition?

Joan Druett is a renowned maritime historian and she uses a real-life expedition as a background for Wiki’s adventures. There were six ships in the ill-fated United States South Seas Exploring Expedition of 1838, commanded by Charles Wilkes. His total mismanagement, lack of record keeping, impulsive inter-ship transfers and rash decision making are all on record. This has given Druett the perfect back ground to mix true events, and people, with fictional events and characters. The ship that Wiki is assigned to, and where most of the action takes place, is an imaginary seventh ship attached to the true fleet of six. The real expedition took four years to complete, and only two ships returned. Two ships foundered, one had already returned to the USA in disgrace and the final one had been sold to an opium trader.

A WATERY GRAVE is the first in a series that will all take place during this expedition.

Sep 2007 review originally published on Murder and Mayhem

 

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