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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Wiki Coffin and the Historical Novels Review

Deadly Shoals and a belated rave

Mea culpa.  Until prompted by Linda Collison, author of Barbados Bound and Surgeon's Mate, I had never heard of the Historical Novel Society.

I first joined their Facebook group, and then the Society itself. They have a very swish website, which I scanned, but I was really too busy working up the fifth Wiki Coffin mystery, The Beckoning Ice, to have a proper look. Then a magazine arrived unexpectedly in the mail -- The Historical Novels Review.

I had a look. It has seven interesting articles, two notables being a masterclass in self-editing by the ever-admirable Cindy Vallar, and another a background to Georgette Heyer, by Jennifer Kloester.

The rest is packed with reviews.  Well, I suppose it calls itself a review magazine, but still I was surprised -- partly because I thought all the reviewing was done on the website, and partly because there were no Indie or digital books reviewed, as far as I could tell.

So I commented on it on the Facebook page, and received some very interesting replies.  HNS is supportive of Indie and digital publishing, I was told, but those reviews are on the website. About a third of their members are readers, not writers, and they find the magazine an excellent source when making up their reading lists. And authors and publishers respect the review magazine for their professional reviewing.

So why had I never heard of it?  Why had none of my stellar array of publishers ever mentioned the magazine? As far as I knew, none of my books had been sent to HNR, and they had never been reviewed.

Not so, I was told.  My books have been reviewed, though some of the reviews are not on the website yet.  So why had my publishers never used the reviews for publicity, let alone told me about them?

They must be awfully bad reviews, thought I, and braced myself before searching.

I found only one -- for Deadly Shoals, and to my amazement, it's a rave. Which makes publisher silence even more amazing.  Read on, and tell me what you think.

Off the coast of Patagonia, January 1839: William “Wiki” Coffin, Maori son of a Yankee sea captain, serves as linguist for the U.S. South Seas Exploring Expedition. At the age of twenty-four, he already has an enviable reputation as naval officer and successful detective.

In this, the fourth of Joan Druett’s Wiki Coffin mysteries, Wiki’s orders are to find a stolen ship. Whaling captain Stackpole has paid $1000 for a ship he has yet to see. He and Wiki trek inland along the Rio Negro to find the elusive sales agent, Adams, who, along with the ship, has disappeared. Each step of the investigation is laid out, chapter by well-constructed chapter, to the surprising and satisfying conclusion.

It’s hard to imagine that the author has not spent years sailing on tall ships, so detailed is her description of the vessels and so fluid her maritime dialogue. She spins a great yarn laced with rich landscape detail, character observations, and a wealth of ethnological information – none of which is intrusive or pedantic. There is also a little sub-mystery to solve in Deadly Shoals: who really is the querulous and fiery first mate of the trading vessel, Osprey? This one will make you smile. Actually, the whole book makes you smile appreciatively.


Judith said...

Very cool! Thanks for the link to that very interesting website.

Anonymous said...

You missed out on their conference in London a few weeks ago. But maybe you were too busy to have come?


Joan Druett said...

New Zealand is a very long way, and a very expensive flight, from London. Simply couldn't afford it. Would have loved to, but ... Maybe I will be richer in 2014?

Shayne Parkinson said...

That's an excellent review! I hope many prospective readers get to see it.