Saturday, January 11, 2014

Book Review - The Watermen (JS)

The Watermen - Patrick Easter

Review by Jacqui Slaney

Having enjoyed ‘The Ratcatcher’ series by James McGee and ‘The Last Days of Newgate’ series by Andrew Pepper, when I saw this novel in the bookshop I was browsing, I thought it sounded interesting enough to buy,

This is the description:

In the dark and slimy streets of Wapping a prostitute is beaten half to death, a not uncommon fate in late 18th century London.  So begins this gripping tale set in 1798 in the Port of London: a cruel villain holds sway over the underworld. His name is Boylin. His face is scarred by lime and his back by the two hundred lashes he received following a naval court martial. He holds Captain Tom Pascoe responsible for his suffering. They meet again when Pascoe becomes River Surveyor for the newly formed marine police. They have had orders to investigate a sudden fall in government revenue that is affecting the nation's ability to fight the war against Napoleon and stem the rising tide of Irish rebellion. Pascoe knows that Boylin is behind it, but he cannot prove anything, yet. THE WATERMEN follows these two adversaries across London as they try to outwit one another. Working alongside Pascoe is Sam Hart, a Jewish immigrant with his own agenda; Pascoe throws the rulebook out the window, scouring East London and the docklands in search of information. However, fate takes a cruel twist when the two men find themselves involved with the same woman - there is much more at stake than the fate of the nation.

This is the writer’s first novel, which at times is obvious, especially at the beginning. The characters started with being wooden and a bit stilted in their actions and speech and some of the descriptions are slightly overlong.

Tom Pascoe loses his ships command through no fault of his own and ends up being employed by the new marine police branch, he forces his employer to take on Sam Hart as well, a man who helped him, and the pair of them becomes a good team, patrolling the River Thames. The new patrol  are soon tasked to find why so much cargo is going missing, and they are lead into a dark world full of violence, which is linked to both of their pasts.

The main character Pascoe is a little too good to be true, but I soon warmed to him as a character, he is interesting and has a good back story. I liked Sam as well; the hints about his mysterious past are good, although I must admit to working out what this was quite early on. Too be fair though this does not detract much from the story as there is plenty of action from the off, and the story is fast paced. The villain of the piece is Boylin, a real nasty bully, but who also comes across as some what as a coward at times, which is a bit odd.

The description of London sets the scene well, as you can almost smell the waterside areas and imagine the hospital.  There are complaints if you read some reviews that some parts of the novel are not historically accurate. Well speaking as someone who enjoyed the book, I did not find that this distracted from the story at all, and if I had wanted to read an accurate account of the time, I would have chosen a factual book rather than one that is fiction.

Overall I did enjoy the story and will be definitely reading book 2, yes the writing was at times a little naive, but this is a first book and things can only get better.

7 out of 10