Book review

The Smugglers by Iain Lawrence (1999)

John Spencer is back after his terrifying ordeal at the mercy of the wreckers - and his father is back too, none the worse for the experience, except that he leans on a cane occasionally. Remember the rats chewing at his feet as he lay chained in the underground drain?

This time perhaps John's father's judgement betrays him as he agrees to buy the Dragon,

"I'm going to buy it," he said. "By the saints, I'm going to buy that boat!"
"You've lost your head." The boatman swore. "She'll bring you trouble and nothing else. See how black she is? It's her soul you're looking at. Her heart is black inside her."
"That's rubbish," said Father.
"I think not." With a sweep of his oar, the boatman brought us in towards the hull. "Half her life she's been a smuggler. First from France and then from England. And it spoils her, mark my words. Once a ship has seen a smuggling run, she's spoiled for anything else."

It's a perfect opportunity for John though. His father is keen for him to work in the family business, and John loves nothing better than the sea:

"You'll be the owner's representative." He sat on the narrow bunk. He wrote with an imaginary quill on imaginary ledgers spread across the table. "You'll be second to none but the captain."

The trouble is, the Dragon's old captain, Turner Crowe, still has a strong interest in the little schooner. He succeeds in rejoining the ship, along with some of her former crew, and tries to carry on with the Dragon as before. Just another smuggling run to France ... It's really a question of deciding between them exactly who is in charge:

"Aye, aye," he said, and smiled. But his smile was a troubling one, one that reminded me how thin was my thread of authority. Only that thread, I saw, kept him from giving me the back of his hand instead of his kindness.

If you enjoy adventure on the high seas, this is the book for you. I think you'll love meeting the larger than life characters - Captain Crowe, Fleming Pye, and the most flamboyantly timid highwayman of them all, Dashing Tommy Dusker with the heart of gold.

What can I read next?

It's part of a trilogy, and best read in order:

If you enjoy The Smugglers I'm sure you'll also enjoy this classic by Robert Louis Stevenson:

And while we're exploring desert islands, you might like to dip into this classic by R M Ballantyne:

If you just love roaming round on the high seas you might also like to look at this one by Arthur Ransome:

Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile:

The Smugglers features in these lists: