"An action-packed nautical adventure full to the gunwales with entertainment and excitement."
New York / San Francisco / Cape Horn
“New York, 1850. Two clipper ships depart on a race around Cape Horn to the boomtown of San Francisco, where the first to arrive will gain the largest profits and also win a $50,000 wager for her owner. Sapphire is a veteran ship with an experienced crew. Achilles is a new-build with a crimped, mostly unwilling crew. Inside Achilles’ forecastle space reside an unruly gang of British sailors whose only goal is to reach the gold fields, a group of contrarily reluctant Swedish immigrants whose only desire is to return to New York and the luckless Englishman, Harry Jenkins, who has somehow managed to get himself crimped by the equally as deceitful Sarah Doyle, and must now spend the entire voyage working as a common sailor down in Achilles’ forecastle while Sarah enjoys all the rich comforts of the aft passenger saloon. Despite having such a clear advantage, Sapphire’s owner has also placed a saboteur, Gideon, aboard Achilles with instructions to impede her in any way possible. Gideon sets to with enthusiasm and before she even reaches Cape Horn Achilles’ chief mate and captain have both been murdered. Her inexperienced 2nd Mate, Nate Cooper, suddenly finds himself in command of Achilles and, with the help of the late captain’s niece, Emma, who herself is the only experienced navigator remaining on board, they must somehow regain control over this diverse crew of misfits and encourage them onwards and around the Horn. But it is the ladies on board Achilles who finally regain control of the situation. With the help of their passenger compliment, which include a French Madam and her three girls, Emma and Sarah do all they can to manipulate this crew as they, in turn, confront sea, weather, a murdering saboteur and one another as they struggle to reach their destination ahead of Sapphire.”
The official back cover blurb says it all – this is an action-packed nautical adventure full to the gunwales with entertainment and excitement. The author, Mark A. Rimmer, knows about the sea, ships and sailing – and his knowledge shows in his ability to tell a thoroughly credible story, complete with a believable and diverse cast of characters such as Sarah Doyle and Henry Jenkins, the ‘baddie’ Gideon, and 'heroine' Enma … but no spoilers, I’ll say no more about them.
Some scenes are brutal – this was a harsh, brutal life for sailors and seamen (and passengers) but to be picky, possibly some of the detail of how to sail a ship, navigate etc., is, maybe, a little too detailed, but lovers of (the equally deeply detailed) Patrick O’Brian will find this novel fascinating and engrossing. It is also, I am delighted to say, not just a stereotypical nautical yarn for the male reader – this one has women involved, and what superb women they are!
© Anne Holt