Book review

The Wreckers by Iain Lawrence (1998)

Here's an adventure story that races along, dragging young John Spencer with it through disaster at sea, to deception, kidnap and murder on dry land.

1799. Cornwall. Caught in a terrible storm at sea off the treacherous Cornish coast the beautiful Isle of Skye is wrecked. Thrown up onto the beach John is half-drowned but pleased to see the local villagers heading purposefully towards him across the beach:

One of the men pointed. He shouted, "There's another." But instead of coming towards me, they angled off to the water's edge, down to a sheltered pool behind a reef of jagged rock. A sailor lay there, not quite ashore but not quite afloat, one hand fixed like a claw to a clutch of mussels. When he raised his head I saw it was old Cridge with his white hair plastered down, his eyes swollen and red. He hadn't the strength to pull himself from the sea - he could barely hold his mouth above it - and his legs swung to and fro in the surge of water.
The men waded in, their big seaboots kicking up white froth, their coats streaming back, the oilskin thrumming in the wind like slack jibs. They stood in an arc round him, their hands on their hips. When Cridge looked up at them I saw on his face an expression of utter, wretched fear. And then the man in the middle raised his boot and set it down on Cridge's head. He did it slowly, deliberately; he put his heel on the crown of the mate's head, and pushed it under the water.

John doesn't wait to see any more. It is clear to him that his ship was lured onto the rocks by wreckers who want only to plunder her cargo, without leaving any witness alive. Exhausted as he is he manages to scale the cliff and make good his escape from the murdering group, only to find himself threatened from another quarter. In the village he meets the legless beggar, Stumps.

Things would not have gone well for John Spencer if Simon Mawgan had not happened to find him in time. Who Simon Mawgan is exactly, John doesn't rightly know. He knows he doesn't trust him, but Mawgan is the only man in the village who is offering him safekeeping.

Did John's father survive the shipwreck? Is Stumps keeping him prisoner somewhere in the village, and if so, where? Can John find him and rescue him? And whose side is Mawgan really on?

Read it! I think you'll love it! Highly recommended.

What can I read next?

This is a brilliant historical adventure story that will keep you sitting on the edge of your seat from the first page to the last. And if you like it, there's more! The Wreckers is the first part in a trilogy:

I can't help but compare this with the classic high sea adventure of all time. Have a look at this one by Robert Louis Stevenson:

And there's another brilliant pirate story by Leon Garfield:

I think you might also like to look at this story set in historical London by Chris Priestley:

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