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A Watery Grave

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Overview

"The year is 1838, and after more than ten years in the planning, the famous United States Exploring Expedition is set to launch into uncharted waters from the coast of Virginia. A convoy of seven ships filled with astronomers, mapmakers, naturalists, and the sailors charged with getting them around the world, the expedition is finally under way, with much fanfare." "Aboard the convoy as ship's linguist is Wiki Coffin. Half-New Zealand Maori and half-American, Wiki speaks numerous languages and is expected to help the crew navigate the Pacific
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A Watery Grave

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Overview

"The year is 1838, and after more than ten years in the planning, the famous United States Exploring Expedition is set to launch into uncharted waters from the coast of Virginia. A convoy of seven ships filled with astronomers, mapmakers, naturalists, and the sailors charged with getting them around the world, the expedition is finally under way, with much fanfare." "Aboard the convoy as ship's linguist is Wiki Coffin. Half-New Zealand Maori and half-American, Wiki speaks numerous languages and is expected to help the crew navigate the Pacific islands that are his native heritage. But just before departure, Wiki, subject to the unfortunate bigotry of the time, is arrested for a vicious murder he didn't commit." The convoy sails off, but just before the ships are out of reach, Wiki is exonerated, set free to catch up with his ship and sail on. The catch: The local sheriff is convinced that the real murderer is aboard one of the seven ships of the expedition, and Wiki is deputized to identify the killer and bring him to justice.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The troubled United States South Seas Exploring Expedition of 1838 (the subject of Nathaniel Philbrick's bestselling Sea of Glory) makes the perfect backdrop for a tricky murder manhunt in this first mystery from New Zealand maritime historian Druett (In the Wake of Madness). William "Wiki" Coffin, a Maori half-breed, has just signed on in Virginia as "linguister" for the voyage when he's jailed as a suspect in the murder of wealthy Mrs. Tristram T. Stanton, wife of the expedition's civilian astronomer. Wiki clears himself easily and so impresses the local sheriff with his savvy that he's deputized to pursue the investigation aboard ship. Druett makes fine mystery McGuffins out of the infamous expedition's real-life chaos and mismanagement, notably commander Charles Wilkes's capricious transfers of personnel between ships that made it difficult to keep track of who was where. She also presents some well-realized villains, whose bigoted treatment of Wiki salts the plot with complicating red herrings. Evoking writers from Melville to Patrick O'Brian, and incorporating fascinating snippets of historical and anthropological lore, this novel is a fine start to a series sure to appeal to lovers of historical mysteries and fans of sea adventures. Agent, Laura Langlie. (Oct. 6) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The son of a Maori mother and an American father, expert sailor and linguist Wiki Coffin is part of an 1838 scientific expedition sailing from Virginia to the Pacific. His discovery of a dead woman's body and subsequent false arrest delay his ship's departure, but after his exoneration Wiki must act as sheriff's agent to find the real murderer on board. Noted maritime historian Druett (In the Wake of Madness: The Murderous Voyage of the Whaleship Sharon) blends strong plotting and scads of authentic maritime detail in an impressive debut that should appeal to fans of historical mysteries and Patrick O'Brian. Druett lives in New Zealand. Highly recommended. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A young man known to his Maori relatives as Wiki Kehua and to his American ones as William Coffin Jr. finds himself in hot water on August 18, 1838, the day the US South Seas Exploring Expedition sets sail. Wiki Coffin lived on his native island until his father, an American sea captain, came back to claim him when Wiki was 12. In New England, Wiki discovers a great facility with languages, attends college, and then takes to the sea on merchant ships for adventure. His closest friend, Captain George Rochester, recruits Wiki as the official "linguister" (or translator, an important role for an expedition bound for the South Seas), a choice Rochester regrets when the sheriff takes Wiki into custody for the murder of Mrs. Tristram Stanton, the wife of one of the Expedition's "scientifics." Although Mrs. Stanton, the wealthiest woman in Virginia, hysterically objected to her husband's intention to sail, the widower has an unbreakable alibi, something Wiki, found at the scene of the crime, lacks. Nonetheless, the sheriff, coming to see Wiki's innocence and usefulness, deputizes him. The rest of the action takes place on the high seas with Wiki investigating the murder and serving on the crew. The debut of a smart, appealing hero whose tale unfolds amid lots of interesting cross-cultural, historical, and nautical detail, the least compelling of which is the mystery. Agent: Laura Langlie
From the Publisher

"Evoking writers from Mellville to Patrick O'Brian, and incorporating fascinating snippets of historical and anthropological lore, this novel is a fine start to a series sure to appeal to lovers of historical mysteries and fans of sea adventures." --Publishers Weekly
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312334420
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2005
  • Series: Wiki Coffin Mysteries Series
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Joan Druett, an award-winning nautical nonfiction writer, is also the author of In the Wake of Madness: The Murderous Voyage of the Whaleship Sharon. She lives in New Zealand.

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent mystery

    In 1838 Norfolk, someone takes a shot at half Maori William ¿Wiki¿ Coffin, Jr. before fleeing the area. Wiki next sees the corpse of a woman in his boat. The Sheriff arrests Wiki for murdering Mrs. Tristam Stanton, wife of the expedition¿s astronomer. However, not long afterward, the Sheriff frees the ¿darkie¿ though he has no papers. Instead he believes that the killer is on the ship the Ex. Ex. already sailing on an exploration expedition in the South Seas. Since Wiki is a linguist with the expedition, the Sheriff asks him to investigate the murder on board the vessel........................... As Wiki catches up to the ship, he also begins making inquiries. However, he finds the crew¿s bias towards his race and national origin makes it difficult to obtain answers as well as delineate who is simply a bigot from a killer. Still, Wiki persists even as the ship is wracked with blunders, confusion, and dangerous decisions that almost sinks the effort before reaching the destination let alone solve a homicide.......................... This is a terrific historical mystery with the emphasis on real events and relationships circa 1838. The story line contains a fabulous who-done-it, but many of the red herrings are caused by racism that makes an individual seem nasty enough to commit murder. Wiki is a wonderful protagonist who hopefully stars in future South Sea adventures, but the key to this superb tale is the insight into the seemingly doomed real United States South Seas Exploring Expedition of 1838.................... Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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