Thursday, July 2, 2015

Review: The Wreckers, by Iain Lawrence

Sometimes a nation's economy is so poor it relies on thievery. Somalia is notorious for piracy to bring money to its people. Iain Lawrence takes a look at a different sort of piracy, that of wrecking ships to loot them. Using false lights, the people who live on the island of Pendennis lure lost ships to "The Tombstones," where the ships are wrecked and their loot free for anyone on Pendennis to grab. What a terrifying position it would be on that ship, and that's the position Lawrence puts the reader in his debut fiction novel, The Wreckers. This is a story with plenty of adventure and mystery to satisfy readers.

It just so happens that the first time fourteen-year-old John Spencer's father allows him to take a ride on his ship, the Isle of Skye, is also the time the Isle of Skye is wrecked. John survives the wreck and lays dazed as he watches the people who live on the island, those he believes are there to rescue him, kill one of the crew members of the Isle of Skye. John flees, chased by the wreckers, and is pulled into a hiding place by a man with no legs named Stumps. Stumps, John learns, has John's father held prisoner on the belief that the Isle of Skye smuggled gold.

Eventually the wreckers do catch up with John. A man named Caleb Stratton intends to kill John, but another, more powerful man, named Simon Mawgan instead takes John in. Even under the safety of Mawgan, John feels uneasy. There seems to be something sinister about Mawgan, and Mawgan seems to have other motives in holding onto John. Mawgan doesn't believe John that the Isle of Skye has no gold, only cheap wine in its holds. Why then was there sawdust? Why then was the cargo loaded in the dark? All is not bad for John, however. He meets a friend in Mawgan's niece, Mary, who shows him around the island.

Much of the tension revolves around who John can trust and what the wreckers plan to do with him, as well as whether his father is still alive. Lawrence sets the stakes early when he shows the wreckers killing off survivors, so the reader knows the threats to John's life are not idle. In the end the story isn't all that difficult to predict, but it's well-told and never dull. Lawrence's greatest creation is probably Mawgan, who is shrouded in mystery. At times he seems full of evil, and at other times he seems genuinely good, as his niece claims. Those who enjoy a good adventure will want to give this a read.

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