Today’s team review is from Cathy, she blogs at http://betweenthelinesbookblog.com
Cathy has been reading Irex by Carl Rackman
First of all, I have to say it’s hard to believe this is a debut novel. It’s so good and the quality of the writing is excellent throughout. The story is based in history, the ship, a couple of the main crew members, reason for the wreck and the attempts at rescue, are all fact. Carl Rackman has woven an incredibly imaginative and compelling tale around that tragic event.
Frederick Blake, the County Coroner for Hampshire, arrives in Newport on the Isle of White in February, 1890 to conduct an inquest into the cause of the sinking of the sailing vessel, Irex and, in turn, the fate of the crew and passengers. In Court Room No.1 Blake is welcomed by Mr Peabody, senior magistrate, and Henry Rudd. They are forestalled in their efforts by government interference, the justification for which Blake and Peabody could not fathom, and which left them confused and frustrated. It soon became clear all was not as it had seemed aboard the Irex, and Blake’s inquest becomes more of an investigation. Time is not on their side and it soon becomes apparent someone doesn’t want the truth told.
The Irex’s first attempt at setting sail was defeated by shifting cargo de-stabilising the ship and so forcing the Captain, Will Hutton, to put back into port. And there they stayed to watch for a break in the weather in order to once again attempt to set sail. When the chance finally arrived, the Irex began her ill-fated proposed journey to Rio de Janeiro with, unusually for a cargo ship, three passengers; Major George Barstow, his wife, Elizabeth, Salvation Army missionaries, and Eddy Clarence, unlikable from the first.
The events on board the Irex unfold alongside the ever more complicated and undermined investigation, through alternate chapters. The mood in both parts of the narrative, but especially so aboard the storm-tossed ship, is convincing and portrayed extremely well. Undercurrents of unease and ill feeling steadily intensify the suspense and tension. I enjoyed the writing and the distinctive characterisations. Will Hutton is a sympathetic character, and who could have guessed the terrible secret of one of the passengers. I liked the investigators more and more as the story progressed, particularly the irrepressible news reporter.
Judging by the wonderfully descriptive writing the research must have been very comprehensive. With vivid imagery throughout the narrative it’s easy to picture the terrifying and traumatic journey on the high seas. I can hardly imagine masts of 200 feet in height, much less think about climbing them. A very intriguing and harrowing story, filled with action, adventure, mystery and murder. I look forward to the next novel by Carl Rackman.
In the harsh winter of December 1889, the sailing vessel Irex leaves Scotland bound for Rio de Janeiro. She carries three thousand tons of pig iron and just three passengers for what should be a routine voyage. But Captain Will Hutton discovers that one of his passengers hides a horrifying secret.
When the Irex is wrecked off the Isle of Wight six weeks later, it falls to the county coroner, Frederick Blake, to begin to unravel the events that overtook the doomed ship — but he soon finds that powerful forces within the British Establishment are working to thwart him. Locked in a race against time and the sinister agents sent to impede him, he gradually discovers that nothing aboard the Irex is what it first seemed…
Irex is an atmospheric mystery, set in a rich Victorian world, packed with intrigue, twists and colourful characters — the spellbinding first novel by Carl Rackman.
About the author
Carl Rackman is a British former airline pilot turned author. From a naval military background, he has held a lifelong interest in military history and seafaring. His life spent travelling the world has given him a keen interest in other cultures, and he has drawn on his many experiences for his writing.
Carl’s writing style can best be described as the “literary thriller”, with a flair for evocative descriptions of locales and characters. Complex, absorbing storylines combine with rich, believable characters to create immersive worlds for the reader to explore.
Carl is married with two daughters and lives in Surrey, United Kingdom. Irex is his first novel, published under his own company, Rackman Books.