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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Take the adventure element from the anthropomorphic Redwall fantasy series and mix in a bit of mystery àla the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew, and you'll come close to Brian Jacques's Castaways of the Flying Dutchman. This book reads like two stories in one, the first taking place on the 17th-century decks of the legendary ship, the Flying Dutchman, where a 15-year-old boy and a stray dog struggle to survive the horrid conditions and the murderous crew. But when a deadly storm sinks the ship, it's only with a bit of angelic intervention that the two survive and are gifted with immortality.
The second part of the story takes place some 200 years later. During this time, the boy (Ben) and his dog (Ned) haven't aged a day, and their wanderings have led them to the small English village of Chapelvale, where they befriend an elderly widow who tells them that the little village may soon be destroyed. It seems a greedy developer named Obadiah Smithers has plans to buy the town up, tear it down, and mine it for limestone. The widow's family has long been rumored to own the lands where the village stands, but the woman can't find the necessary paperwork to prove her title. And without it, Smithers can't be stopped.
Ben and Ned offer to help the widow look for the paperwork and are aided in their quest by a couple of local youngsters. Eventually, Ben finds a clue that suggests one of the widow's ancestors has hidden the necessary title documents. But as one clue leads to another, before long everyone is off on an adventurous treasure hunt through town. Hampering their efforts is a gang of local bullies led by Smithers's nasty son, but it doesn't take long for Ben to outsmart the bullies, and rob them of their power.
Adding to this wonderful reading experience are Ian Schoenherr's pen-and-ink drawings at the start of each chapter, which help readers anticipate what's coming and visualize the clues. And while Jacques has opted for more human heroes this time out, fans of his Redwall series will find similar themes and the same sense of adventure. (Beth Amos)