Monday, July 14, 2008

REVIEW: A Watery Grave

Title: A Watery Grave
Author: Joan Druett
Protagonist: Wiki Coffin
Setting: aboard various ships of the US Exploring Expedition, 1838
Series: #1
Rating: A

First Line: The man who was about to be wrongfully arrested waited in the black shadow of a tree by the Elizabeth River.

I have long been a fan of Joan Druett. Three of her books are in my library: She Captains, Hen Frigates and In the Wake of Madness. When I wish to read about the sea, Druett is the first author who comes to mind. So when I discovered that she'd begun writing a mystery series using the US Exploring Expedition as a backdrop, I was thrilled. Nathaniel Philbrick's book about the expedition was one of my top reads of the year a couple of years ago, and I couldn't wait to read Druett's book. It wasn't a disappointment.

Wiki Coffin, the half-Maori son of a New England sea captain, has been hired as the "linguister" of the expedition. He almost misses the adventure, being wrongfully accused of the murder of Mrs. Tristan Stanton in Virginia. He clears himself so easily of the charges that he impresses the local sheriff, who deputizes Wiki to continue searching for the murderer as the expedition sets sail. We know who the killer has to be, all Wiki has to do is prove his guilt.

What follows is a mystery with tight plotting, good pacing, excellent characterizations, and a true feel of the sea during the age of sail. It is a mark of Druett's skill that her attention to detail never gets in the way of the story. I may feel as though I'm capable of firing off a cannon now, but I never lost track of where Wiki was in his investigation. If you like mysteries with a taste of salt water, you can't go wrong with Joan Druett's Wiki Coffin series.

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