3 out of 4 stars
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Princess Sophia sank in Alaska waters in 1918, taking with it all those aboard, save for a lucky dog. One of the ill-fated passengers was Jakob, who was able to place a letter inside a metal flask that miraculously made its way to shore. Fifty years later, the letter reached its intended recipient, Lizzie Hadley of Vancouver.
Upon reading the letter’s contents, Lizzie sent her lawyer, Darya, to Sean Gray, a private investigator. Lizzie wanted Sean to mount an expedition to Alaska to find the treasure that Jakob buried near Thomas Bay before he disappeared. Sean, an experienced sailor, was to use Lizzie’s yacht, the Lady L. Sean assembled his team, which included a young captain, a grizzled engineer, a Chinese cook (the only lady), a tough security guy, a talented mechanic, and a smart parrot. Off they sailed from Vancouver to Alaska in June 1968.
Thomas Bay is known as “The Bay of Death” because of some tragic incidents that happened there. One book written in 1900, The Strangest Story Ever Told, talks about fearful creatures some gold prospectors encountered in the area. Grahame Shannon skillfully uses the backdrop of these creatures of Alaskan folklore and the sinking of the Princess Sophia, a real maritime catastrophe, to draw the reader into the riveting pages of Bay of Devils.
This is a book I totally enjoyed for its story, the humorous telling, and the memorable characters. A personal favorite is Ajax, the parrot, who swears like a true sailor. Readers should watch out for the bird’s moment in the story. The women also have marked roles. I like that the women are of different nationalities, and they all hold their own in the face of trouble.
Those who sail will be familiar with the thrill of navigating vessels in both smooth and unfriendly waters, but even one like me who knows zilch about sailing will be able to coast along. (Well, I did feel seasick at the start, but it was not so bad.) Shannon describes the journey in vivid color, complete with frolicking orcas, glorious sunsets, and the delicious dishes the crew feasted on.
As with many stories involving hidden treasures, the book had greedy villains to spice up the adventure. Some of the villains were identified early on, and some came as a surprise. The author was able to engage me without killing too many people.
I would have wanted to give the best rating for this sea voyage, but the faulty editing stopped me. While the errors are the only things I dislike in the book, they take away one star. The book gets 3 out of 4 stars from me.
Fans of Indiana Jones will relish this story. Sailors will have a grand time with it. Those who scare easily may have to stop reading now and then, but they will surely go back to see where Sean and his team end up.
Just like Indy, Sean has a love interest, too. The love angle endows the story with an added flavor and gives romance buffs a reason to read this tale. There is not much “bedroom talk,” but the reader will find some naughty phrases.
Overall, I would be happy to read another story from Shannon, on the high seas or otherwise.
Bay of Devils
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