An American entry, the Peregrine, a replica of a famous Nineteenth Century clipper built in the same small Maryland shipyard, is tarnished by rumors. Claims are made that the original Peregrine was involved in criminal activities as well as the violent theft of a famous Chinese jewel and the brutal death of a young girl.
Jim Cutter, Peregrine race director and his friend professor Katy Marbury research the true story of the ship's past. They constantly risk their lives as they uncover a tale which may affect the future of modern China, all the time knowing they are targeted by an unseen enemy.
Then far at sea, the Peregrine mysteriously disappears. Cutter must find and rescue the ship against impossible odds. Tough former soldier that he is, he must still conquer his recurring personal demon. His only son is aboard. He deserted his son once before and he fears he will fail him again.
He currently edits the Wet Their Whistles newsletter for animal water rights (solarsippers.com). He draws the popular humorous Animal Viewpoint Cartoons for newspapers. He continues to please his fans with new novels in his River Sunday Romance Mysteries collection. In his fiction he describes his recurring theme that human settlers since prehistoric times in the Chesapeake region have left a mist of legend and history that permeates its modern stories with a certain compelling truth.
The story revolves around a international tall ships race, following an ancient tea trade route, where the boats have to be replicas from the nineteenth century. When the Americans start researching the history of their ship it takes them on a treasure hunt and they find it takes them on a journey into the old ships route and brings them into conflict with the Chinese authorities.
The author style of writing draws and enthralls the reader and you feel as if you are there experiencing all the emotions of all the characters in the situations they face. The tension and suspense that the writer builds up to a crescendo is superb and the adventures and scenarios that are described are first class. The intense relationships which are portrayed in the storyline are excellent and you can relate the feelings to moments in your own life. This vibe you get brings the characters even more to life.
This novel has everything a reader needs, romance, thrills, excitement, treasure seeking and the building of relationships between father and son. Another first rate account from one of my favourite authors and look forward to reviewing more of his books.
An excerpt from China Jewel:
Out in the harbor more sails were let go from yardarms and dropped to fill with wind. The crew adjusted the staysails and jibs to the early southeast breeze. The square cloth slapped and grew taut with the braces and sheet lines. As they provided thrust, the Peregrine, towering over the spectator boats, sailed ahead. The outward tide added speed. The ship’s wake became a white curl sliced upward by the curved sharp bow. The water raced along the black planks of the hull and out from the sides of the deep canted rudder. She moved towards the Chesapeake, past the town’s famous rock pile rising like a tiny island in the harbor. The monument, constructed to honor the freed local slaves after the Civil War, would normally have been the center of attraction for tourists, but not today. All eyes were on this classic replica ship as it passed on its port and starboard sides the sleek late Twentieth Century ocean yachts. They were owned by observers from American, British, and French competitor teams, as well as many smaller weekend cruisers and sloops. Overhead, helicopters from Baltimore, photographing live video for the national and overseas news, droned like big searching bees looking over the strange white and black flower below.
In front of her a gray United States Navy guided missile frigate was moored. Her ensign flew at the center masthead; a Sikorsky Seahawk helicopter warmed up on her deck. The Assateague, a 110-footer from the Coast Guard, also stood by. To her starboard, on shore, hundreds of white, tan, and black families were standing in the backyards of their houses, silent as the ship heeled and gathered speed. Next to them, craftsmen were clustered on the wooden and steel railway of the shipyard or the tarpaper-covered roof of the long white woodworking shed. Seamstresses who created the antique Peregrine cotton sails stood on the town pier, their faces glowing. Here also the local high school band belted out the state song “Maryland My Maryland.” With them a white-haired choir from the Flying Tigers World War Two veterans club sang in harmony. All in all, the birth of this ship was treated as a resurrection by the townspeople; a rebirth of their heritage.
Morning shadows from the taller brick buildings spread over Cutter and the other spectators. When the band stopped, they heard the commands of the mates and the continuing cracks of sails filling with wind. The sailors climbed aloft, letting go more cloth and shifting the great controlling lines that adjusted the yardarms.
“Good party on the Peregrine deck last night,” said Jolly. Cutter nodded. “The town newspaper editor said it’s the best Goddamned thing that has ever happened to this town.”
He paused, then said, “You got us all set?”
Jolly leaned over and whispered, “The navigation people estimate her to log two hundred twenty nautical miles a day.” The little man looked around suspiciously at the other revelers, many of them competitors, here to learn Peregrine race secrets.
“Keep at it,” Cutter said. “We need all the speed we can get.”
Remember the warning from Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Read China Jewel to find out why the crew in the book named this beautiful ocean bird "Pancake".
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China Jewel ebook
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