Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Gale Warning: Review

Gale Warning, originally published as Maddon's Rock in Britain, by Hammond Innes is a little outside my usual mystery fare. Primarily a high action thriller set on the high seas, this book--like much of Innes's work--would normally appeal to those who like their books full of adventure and masculine adventures. The story is told by Corporal Jim Vardy. Vardy and his mates, Gunner Bert Cook and Private Sills, are waiting repatriation to England at the end of World War II. Orders come for them to join Warrant Officer Rankin (as commanding officer) on special detail aboard the S. S. Trikkala, a freighter that will take them and a load of mysterious cargo back to England in a convoy of other boats.

The men are ordered to guard cases marked "Hurricane Engines for Replacement" round-the-clock during the journey. Also aboard the vessel is Captain Halsey, a Shakespeare-spouting captain rumored to be mixed up in piracy, several of his loyal crew (having followed him from a previous ship), and a young woman released from a prison camp, Jennifer Sorrell. Vardy, an army man who would have been better suited to the navy, overhears several conversations and observes some odd behavior that make him suspicious of Halsey and Rankin's true purpose.

When the Trikkala encounters a severe ocean storm (thus the title Gale Warning), Vardy and his mates are ordered into their designated life-boat. A boat that they had previously discovered to not be sea-worthy. Vardy refuses to board the boat--requesting to take one of the "less dependable" rafts instead. Halsey and Rankin deny his request and he defies orders, taking Bert Cook and Jenniferr Sorrell with him. They believe that the Trikkala has gone down and when they are picked up by one of the other ships, it seems that they are the only survivors from the doomed ship. But nearly a month later, Halsey, Rankin, the three crewmen loyal to Halsey are also found floating in the arctic waters.

Charges of mutiny are brought against Vary and Cook and despite their story of the unsafe boat, they are found guilty and sent to Dartmoor for three years. Word reaches them that the five other survivors are planning a trip to salvage the cargo of the Trikkala--which has been revealed to be a fortune in silver bouillon. Our heroes decide to escape from prison and try to beat Halsey and company to the ship with hopes of bringing back proof of their innocence. The real mystery of Gale Warning is whether Vardy will be successful and the revelation of the real story behind the sinking of the freighter.

There are no spoilers in my synopsis. My copy of the book has a brief blurb that pretty much covers everything I've told you--and the few bits I've been able to find on the interwebs tell just about as much. The kernel of mystery, as noted, surrounds Vardy's trip back to the Norwegian sea to find the silver. Bert Cook joins him--as does Jenny. Jenny is a sailor as well and it is her boat that is used to make the journey. The adventure and suspense of the final chapters more than make up for the lack of mystery through the first half of the book. These stories may have been primarily attractive to men during the war years and those immediately following, but I find Innes's prose compelling and interesting.  He's a good story-teller in an action-packed genre. Three and 1/2 stars.

★★★ 1/2

This fulfills the "More Than One Title" square on the Golden Vintage Bingo card.

Challenges Fulfilled: Vintage Mystery Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge, Bookish TBR, Around the World, Century of Books, Outdo Yourself, How Many Books, My Kind of Mystery, 100 Plus Challenge, What's in a Name, European Reading Challenge, Book Monopoly


Peggy Ann said...

Sounds good Bev! And I have a friend that sails and would like this very much.

J F Norris said...

He seems to be in the Alistair MacLean school of thriler to me. I can't go to a book sale or store without stumbling across a copy of THE WRECK OF THE MARY DEARE. Must've been his most popular book. (Or his worst -- which is why eveyrone is dumping it at the book sales!) I may have to check him out one of these days. If you find his writing compelling that's good enough for me!

Bev Hankins said...

John: Honestly, I don't usually go in for those action-thriller books and this kept me reading straight through. I loved the camaraderie between Vardy and Cook.

fredamans said...

With all the war it made me think of my late grandfather. Oh, the chats we had.
Great review, though not sure this would be my cup of tea.

Yvette said...

I like that star system, Bev. :) I think I'm going to give it a try. I'm always leery of trying something new so it may take me a while to work up the gumption. Ha.

I've never read any Hammond Innes. But this one sounds intriguing. Maybe I'll give this one a try.