Avid Series Reader's Reviews > Deadly Shoals

Deadly Shoals by Joan Druett
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Deadly Shoals by Joan Druett is the 4th book of the Wiki Coffin mystery series set on the open seas in 1839. The historic 6-ship United States South Seas Exploring Expedition sailed from Norfolk on August 18, 1838. With its ultimate goal to chart the Pacific, the fleet spent its first 4 months surveying the Atlantic Ocean. Final landfall on the Atlantic coast was at Patagonia, to survey the shifting shoals at Rio Negro.The Wiki Coffin series adds a fictional 7th brig (the Swallow) and crew.

Wiki is half Maori, half American. His father William Coffin, a career whaler, fathered Wiki in New Zealand, then retrieved him at age 12. Wiki was not welcome for long in Connecticut; next time Coffin sailed, his wife sent Wiki off to boarding school. Wiki ran off to sea, gathering experience on whalers, deserting at various ports of call to try other ships.

As the fleet departed Norfolk, Wiki was deputized as sheriff to covertly investigate murder. In each port of call/book of the series Wiki has encountered and solved a variety of crimes including murder. When the US fleet arrives at Rio Negro, civilian Captain Stackpole requests Wiki's services to recover his stolen schooner.

On land at Rio Negro, Wiki attempts to trace the theft of the schooner. He enlists the help of a band of gauchos, happy to discover its leader Manuel is brother to Juan, a gaucho Wiki befriended on another trip. Soon they find the first murder victim. Tracing the victim's movements over his last days leads them to discover evidence of additional crimes. The more Wiki learns, the more complex the mystery becomes, involving more shady characters with hidden agendas.

Events rapidly unfold on land and sea. To Wiki's surprise, his father's ship the Osprey joins the fleet at Rio Negro. It's a 200-ton brigantine customized with antique luxury. His father's first mate, Mr. Seward, clashes fiercely with Wiki at first meeting (eventually Wiki saves Seward's life).

Treachery and crime continues, and then the weather begins to play a part. A predicted thick fog hides the ships from one another, preventing movement. The fog doesn't lift until a final suspenseful battle of ships with cannon, grenade and dismantling weapons. The wide variety of settings: pampas & gauchos, salt lake, shop & surgery, small boats rowing ashore and an at-sea battle would make a great movie! I love the series for its rich historic nautical detail of life at sea.
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Reading Progress

December 29, 2019 – Shelved
Started Reading
June 6, 2020 – Finished Reading

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