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All art is unstable. It's meaning is not necessarily that implied by the author, There is no authorative active voice. There are only multiple readings. David Bowie, 1995

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Explosive foray into the early, heady days of Singapore!

Captain Hawk (Hawk's Legacy Series Book 1) by SJ Garland

Mad dogs and Englishman go out in the noon day sun!
Ah! Cricket, in Singapore, I can't even contemplate it. Even the thought of the heat makes me feel faint. Apparently cricket is part of the expat life in Singapore at the time of Sir Stamford Raffles and the First Resident, William Farquhar. Singapore in 1823 was the new trading frontier on the Malay Peninsula--a clearing house for rare spices, silks and porcelains from China. A place where the quest for riches vies with the unruliness of fortune seekers, trade ships and their crews, the Chinese secret organizations, and the Dutch threat.  
Nathaniel Hawk has come to Singapore at his fathers request, only to find him gone, out testing a new ship. His father, Captain Sebastian Hawk, a renowned captain for the East India company is due back soon.
Only Captain Hawk doesn't return! From a handful of survivors it's determined that his ship was sunk by a rumoured 'ghost' ship, a will-o'-the-wisp, all black and terrible, hard to see against the twilight seas, with multiple and terrible guns that wreak havoc on its unsuspecting prey. It seems Captain Hawk has joined the litany of other victims.
Then there's the mad Dutch captain, Collaart who wants Nate's head at any cost, and First Resident Farquhar seems just the man to hand Nate over, especially when trade is being threatened.
So how much does cricket have to do with sailing ships, trade in the East Indies and this book. Perhaps it's the code, perhaps it's the not giving up, of playing the game out. Or perhaps for the English, it's a touch of home. I like the following explanation  Charlotte Carstairs asks her fathers headman, 'Why do all trading metaphors come from cricket?" Bingham replies, "I imagine because it's we Brits are great at both.'
Put together the steamy, seamy sides of Singapore, the quarrels at the very top of society, questions about the safety of trade ships that could make and break fortunes, and the deteriorating personal relations that develop between Nate and his friends and there's plenty of grist for an explosive story. Add to the mix the charming and headstrong Charlotte Carstairs who will do anything to ensure her father's trading house succeeds, rather than unravel into bankruptcy and poverty; include the lure of opium, and the threat of cholera, and the recipe for mystery and intrigue deepens. 
Nathaniel is a reluctant hero, of strong opinions and loyalties, an able fighter and seaman, who has turned his back on the sea. He only wants to hie back to England but finds himself thwarted by fate at every turn.
I enjoyed Garland's 'Markinch ' series immensely, and if this first book of the Hawk Legacy series is anything to go by, then this latest series will certainly live up to the same high standard previously set by Garland.

ARC from author

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