The Second Mate

Philip McCutchan, Author St. Martin's Press $19.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-312-14410-4
Given that Britisher McCutchan has published more than 90 adventure novels, it's no surprise that he springs no surprises in his latest, the second Tom Chatto yarn (after Apprentice to the Sea, 1995). Nonetheless, fans of seafaring historicals will enjoy how McCutchan pilots them through familiar waters in this turn-of-the-century voyage. Tom, earnest son of a Church of Ireland dean, has his eye on command of his own ship--as well as on a young Argentine beef heiress. On the newfangled steamship Orvega, he is blessed with a good-natured captain, irked by a peevish first officer and bemused by a mixed bag of passengers, including an obnoxious peeress, a drunk, a predatory older woman, a convicted killer (returning from Tom's first adventure) and various First, Second and Steerage Class extras. Plot elements include quarantine in port, influenza aboard, an abandoned windjammer, engine trouble and the ever-perilous rounding of the Horn. All this provides Tom with the occasional rough go, but it's just another day's smooth sailing for McCutchan--and for readers who care to while away some time under his capable command. (July)
Reviewed on: 07/01/1996
Release date: 07/01/1996
Genre: Fiction
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