Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Two days out of Cape Town in 1767, the captain of a British frigate falls overboard and drowns during a violent storm. Surprisingly, seven months later, charges of murder are brought against highly regarded Lieutenant William Landon, alleging that he pushed the captain overboard. When blind magistrate Sir John Fielding, well known for his shrewd, relentless interrogations (and last seen in Murder in Grub Street) is called in for further investigation, this engrossing story expands to encompass the byzantine workings of maritime and urban justice against a rich backdrop of the teeming, scoundrel-infested streets of 18th-century London. Fielding is ably guided by his bright, streetwise assistant, 14-year-old narrator Jeremy Proctor, who grimly discovers, while scouring the seamier side of the city for eyewitnesses, that the reluctant seamen from the frigate are being killed off one by one. Questions abound: Why is Lieutenant Landon so apathetic in his own defense? Why are the ship's garrulous doctor and its unctuous chaplain so wary? Although many characters are stereotypical (a whore with a heart of gold, for example), Jeremy and Sir John make a formidable team and eventually serve both the letter and the spirit of the law in this busy, unpredictable and intriguing story. BOMC alternate.(Sept.)
Sir John Fielding, a blind magistrate in 18th-century England, is called upon to help in a naval inquiry involving a possible murder on the high seas. One fact is indisputable. During a storm Capt. Josiah Markham was thrown overboard. A witness to this event, the first officer, claims the captain was pushed over the side by Lt. William Landon. Others, including the accused, say Landon was trying to save Markham but fierce seas yanked the captain from his grasp. This intriguing tale is told from the perspective of 14-year-old Jeremy Proctor, who works as an apprentice to the magistrate. The life as lived in this often harsh period is vigorously portrayed in Alexander's third Sir John Fielding novel (e.g., Murder in Grub Street, LJ 4/1/96). Recommended for most suspense collections.Patricia Altner, Information Seekers, Bowie, Md.
Months after the storm at sea in which Captain Josiah Markham perished, H.M.S. Adventure returns to England. Aboard heramong 150 rowdy seamenare Tom Durham, stepson of Bow Street Court Magistrate Sir John Fielding, and acting captain Lt. James Hartsell, bursting with an accusation quite recently lodged: That he saw Lt. William Landon push Capt. Markham overboard. Drawn into the case by his interest in Tom, a former criminal remitted two years ago to the Adventure, and by the entreaties of his old friend Vice-Admiral Sir Robert Redmond, Landon's uncle, for his expertise in examining witnesses, blind Sir John (Murder in Grub Street, 1995, etc.) finds himself outside his jurisdiction and his authority. The harder he works to vindicate dispirited Landon, the more Sir Robert seems to set his face against the accused. The search for witnesses who can refute Hartsell's story takes Jeremy Proctor, Sir John's boy Friday, from ship to shore, through eye-opening conversations with lascars and bawds and Black Jack Bilbo's surprisingly delicate lecture on the facts of life. But the story runs out of steam and surprises long before the end, leaving only those two old lions Sir Robert and Sir John to settle their differences.
Period buffs may savor Alexander's 1769 take on A Few Good Men. Even fans of Sir John, however, will probably judge his third outing his weakest.