Monday, August 20, 2012

FLOATING GOLD - a review by George Jepson, editor Quarterdeck magazine of McBooks Press

Captain Oliver Quintrell languishes on the beach. It is July 1802 and a troubled peace has swept across Europe in the wake of the Treaty of Amiens. Unemployed officers in the RoyalNavy besiege the Admiralty in London, seeking any sort of commission.
On the streets of Portsmouth, Jack Tars –unafraid of press gangs – are at loose ends. Anchorages bristle with the masts of ships slowly rotting away in ordinary.
On the Isle of Wight, Quintrell is summoned to London, where Admiral Viscount St Vincent tells him “You will have your ship, Captain … Elusive is a 38-gun frigate … chosen, not for its size or the number of its guns, but for its speed and versatility.”
Elusive, sailing from Portsmouth harbor under “secret orders,” is bound for the Atlantic and points south, in company with a merchant convoy.
Driving into the South Atlantic, the frigate leaves the convoy, setting a course for its clandestine destination – an island in the Southern Ocean. On this island the government believes is a treasure, which Britain desperately desires to assist in financing what it believes will soon be the resumption of its naval war with France.
Finding the treasure is the trick, for Quintrell’s orders do not specify in what form it exists or whether, in fact, it does exist. The Admiralty’s missive only concludes, “Your voyage is of vital importance. Succeed and England will be forever in your debt.”
Unstated is what will happen if he fails.
Margaret Muir, writing with a keen familiarity with wooden ships under sail and the early nineteenth century Royal Navy, charts a course with enough danger to keep ardent armchair admirals on edge, as Elusive – aptly named – tacks ever deeper into the frigid southern seas, with icebergs threatening ship and crew alike. Her prose tickles the senses, as the aroma of Stockholm tar wafts off the pages, along with sheets of salt spray. And she is equally adept at creating captivating characters, and, in particular, Oliver Quintrell, a competent, but flawed, sea officer.
Muir is a welcome addition to the nautical fiction genre.
George Jepson
Note: FLOATING GOLD is available as an e-book on Kindle.

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