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A Watery Grave (Wiki Coffin Mysteries #1)

3.35  ·  Rating Details ·  81 Ratings  ·  23 Reviews
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 "Ex. Ex." is finally underway, with much fanfare.

Aboard the
Paperback, 304 pages
Published October 1st 2005 by Minotaur Books (first published 2004)
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Aug 03, 2014 Alger rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A silly premise bound in weak meandering prose. The essence of A Watery Grave is a 19th century version of the stock rogue cop/detective locked room/train procedural, which of itself is perfectly fine. However, what I require of an author who faithfully and un-ironically recycles an Agatha Christie novel is that they bother to make it their own. Druett hardly seems to make the effort beyond a very thin premise, and instead of building a story she piles stuff up and hopes we don't notice that it ...more
Craig Sisterson
Sep 03, 2015 Craig Sisterson rated it really liked it
Maritime expert Joan Druett provides readers with an engaging mix of classic mystery and colourful seafaring adventure in a unique mystery to launch her popular Wiki Coffin series.

In the ocean of mystery fiction, it can be hard for an author, no matter how talented, to stand out. Druett manages to create something enjoyably unique in A WATERY GRAVE, both in her evocation of the nineteenth century maritime setting, and her creation of a fabulous protagonist, Wiki Coffin.

It is 1838, and part-New Z
Mar 05, 2011 Stina rated it really liked it
Book #6 for 2011.

This historical mystery provided some fascinating background on this nation's early efforts at scientific research and exploration as well as seagoing life during that era. It was clear from her straightforward prose style that Druett was an experienced nonfiction writer, but I was relieved that she did not succumb to the tendency to provide occasional info dumps for the reader's edification. Instead she worked the exposition into the narrative fairly smoothly. I was also reliev
V.E. Ulett
Feb 23, 2014 V.E. Ulett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After reading The Beckoning Ice, the fifth book in Druett’s Wiki Coffin mystery series, I wanted to begin at the beginning with A Watery Grave. The U.S. Exploring Expedition ships are finally on the brink of sailing, after much political and military delay, when the wife of a prominent man and one of the expedition’s astronomers is murdered. Wiki is at the scene of discovery of the woman’s body, and is briefly accused in the killing. A savvy sheriff thinks differently and recruits Wiki Coffin, ...more
Sep 14, 2014 Angela rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
Joan Druett's A Watery Grave, the first of her historical mysteries starring Wiki Coffin, was an odd read for me. We have here what you might get if you took Patrick O'Brian, made Stephen Maturin the hero and also made him half-Maori, and threw the whole shebang over into the Mystery genre. There is much promise in this for O'Brian fans. This book, however, didn't quite deliver on that promise.

The main issue I had with it was that all throughout the book, we get a whole lot of "look at all these
Mar 07, 2009 Paula rated it it was ok
Shelves: crime, series, historical
Being a major fan of Patrick O'Brian, the idea of a historical detective series set in the Age of Sail (albeit from the US perspective) was always going to appeal to me, though it's taken me till now to get my hands on this first book in the series...

Our protagonist in A Watery Grave is one Wiki Coffin, half-Maori and half-American, now a sailor on his friend's ship which is part of a planned expeditionary force. Wiki is wrongly accused of murder at the outset and then deputised to investigate,
Apr 05, 2016 Spuddie rated it really liked it
I started this book prepared not to like it, because it had 3 strikes against it from the start, for a historical mystery: I gleaned from the book blurb that the time period was 1830's--one of my least favorite eras--and the location as America--I am not really a fan of American history...and the fact that it's a naval mystery...not a fan of ships, again especially in this era. But the story and the main character (Wiki Coffin, a half-Maori, half-white son of an American sea captain) captured my ...more
Donna R
The United States Exploring Expedition set sail from Hampton Roads, Virginia in 1838. The author uses the expedition as a cornerstone for a series of 'whodunnits at sea'. She has conjured a seventh vessel, peopled with fictitious mariners (one of whom being Wiki Coffin - our translator and sleuth) then set it off with the fleet - Wikis first task is to identify a murderer from among the crew and scientists.

For some time I have had a NF title by the same author on my TBR Island of the Lost: Ship

Apr 24, 2012 Rusty rated it really liked it
I thought that this was an enjoyable mystery with an exciting conclusion. The friendship between George Robinson and Wiki Coffin add so much to this tale. Who murdered Ophelia Stanton? That's the questions Wiki must answer. Once he determines who did the deed he must figure out how it was accomplished because the man has dozens of witnesses who swear that he was no where near the woman when she was murdered. To add even more mystery men commit suicide (or do they), disappear, and are washed to ...more
Mark Baker
Mar 20, 2014 Mark Baker rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery, 2008
The first in a historical mystery series set during the US Exploration Expedition of the early 1800's. Wiki Coffin, half New Zealander half American, is hired to be a linguist. But the night before they sail, Wiki finds a boat with a dead body inside. The woman was murdered, and there is reason to believe that the killer is with the expedition, especially when another body turns up. The historic details slowed the book down at times, but on the whole I really enjoyed the story, the characters, ...more
Jan 03, 2009 Eric rated it liked it
I liked this book and I didn't like this book.
It feels trapped by its genre, which has unfortunately been overdone a bit by the likes of Patrick O'Brian. One of the things that the author does do to good effect is explore the role of race in early 19th century society by using a character type not often found in historical literature of that period.

Worth a read. I hope you like it better than I did though.
May 23, 2008 Savannah rated it liked it
This is the first of the series I began with episode three of, and it's helpful to get the backstory. Also, it's pretty good as historical nauticalia, even if a little of the Holmesian sort of mystery where everything is solved via observation and later analytical discussion.
Sep 03, 2015 Kgwhitehurst rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
I gave up about a third of the way through. The protagonist was too perfect; the storyline, dull. Why did Druett have to set this story in the Chesapeake? It would've been much better in to have started this series in New Zealand. She might've been less tempted to make him a complete paragon.
Nov 17, 2011 Jane rated it liked it
Joan Druett always offers a fascinating and accurate ride on the high seas of the nineteenth century. Although she is an historian first, her books are never stuffy, but always full of good characters and a fast-moving plot.
May 27, 2010 TheRealMelbelle rated it did not like it
Good for a summer read. I am a sucker for nautical tales. This one is good on the ship stuff but is a rather poorly written mystery by a historian. The true historical backdrop for this story is intriguing.
First book in a series featuring a half New Zealand Maori/half American who sets sail with the United States South Seas Exploring Expedition in 1838. Thought this had a great premise, some interesting historical color, and a winning main character though the actual plot was a bit lacking.
benjamin watson
Jun 11, 2014 benjamin watson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting.

This book is written the way historical fiction should be. I will read more of Druett's books. Time to buy the second book.
Carolyn Clark
Carolyn Clark rated it liked it
Aug 19, 2015
Danica rated it really liked it
Jul 10, 2008
Patrick Bresette
Patrick Bresette rated it really liked it
Oct 28, 2008
Niki rated it liked it
Dec 23, 2012
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Dec 28, 2008
benjamin watson
benjamin watson rated it really liked it
Jun 11, 2014
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Karen Libra rated it liked it
Jul 18, 2013
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Liz rated it really liked it
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Back in the year 1984, on the picture-poster tropical island of Rarotonga, I literally fell into whaling history when I tumbled into a grave. A great tree had been felled by a recent hurricane, exposing a gravestone that had been hidden for more than one and a half centuries. It was the memorial to a young whaling wife, who had sailed with her husband on the New Bedford ship Harrison in the year ...more
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Other Books in the Series

Wiki Coffin Mysteries (5 books)
  • Shark Island (Wiki Coffin Mysteries #2)
  • Run Afoul (Wiki Coffin Mysteries #3)
  • Deadly Shoals (Wiki Coffin Mysteries #4)
  • The Beckoning Ice (Wiki Coffin Mysteries #5)

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