Watery Grave

Bruce Alexander, Author Putnam Publishing Group $22.95 (265p) ISBN 978-0-399-14155-3
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.)
Reviewed on: 09/02/1996
Release date: 09/01/1996
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