Shearer's (The Speed of the Dark ) buoyant sea adventure introduces narrator Eric and his twin brother Clive, who is younger ("but only by five minutes") and the usually patient recipient of his brother's constant barbs. Readers will easily get caught up in the boys' sometimes silly banter and will willingly follow them as they stow away on a cruise ship, a move prompted by their desire to be with their widower father, who works as a steward on the vessel. In a plot that often blithely tosses credibility to the wind, the siblings find sleeping quarters in a storage cabin in the bowels of the boat and spend their days relaxing on deck. A string of humorous incidents ensues after the two run into a classmate who is traveling first class, and the brothers get caught up in an elaborate lie; they tell the boy's uppity mother that their father is the ship's captain ("People are very suspicious of children with no grown-ups. I don't know why that should be. As nobody seems suspicious of grown-ups with no children," Eric observes). A wave of intrigue washes over the comedy as the twins foil a plan masterminded by a crew member and some shady-looking passengers to rob the wealthy passengers of all their valuables.
Occasional poignant moments—including those in which Eric mentions his much-missed mother—temper the madcap elements of this caper, which lands with a satisfying finale. Ages 8-14. (Mar.)