The Swallows and Amazons series returns to the Norfolk Broads for the sequel to Coot Club. There is an outbreak of setting boats adrift at night and this seems to happen wherever the Death & Glory boys (Joe, Bill and Pete, easily the most working-class of all Ransome's heroes) are. Tom, the local doctor's son and the Ds (science minded Dick and story-writing Dorothea, to whom we were introduced in Winter Holiday) help the pirates to clear their name. Alibis and assistance are provided by when the lads fish for eels and for pike. As a detective story it is childishly easy to identify the real culprit but as always the real excitement comes from the sailing, the fishing and, of course, the thrill of living in your own boat. And the characterisations are superb.
Some great moments:
- "No use putting good paint to be dewed." (Ch 1)
- "It's that dark below you can't hit a nail more'n once in three and get your thumb the other two." (Ch 1)
- "An oilskin coat floated down, slipping sideways like a huge bat." (Ch 3)
- "I ain't walk under a ladder," said Bill. "Not since that time I do and fall in the next day." (Ch 12)
- "There were two chairs, one of which was a safe one." (Ch 15)
- "The old Reverend come round and say he's sorry you're in trouble and what can he do about it ... I tell him the best he can do is close his ears to evil tongues." (Ch 21)
- "If they'd have had tails they'd have tripped on them." (Ch 32)
Another old-fashioned story with a slow build-up but the characters and the pitch-perfect observations and the gentle humour make it a page-turned from the start. May 2021; 364 pages
The Swallows and Amazon series contained twelve books:
- Swallows and Amazons: Children camping on an island in a lake have sailing based adventures
- Swallowdale: More sailing adventures are threatened when the Swallow sinks
- Peter Duck: The Swallows and Amazons and Captain Flint sail on a big yacht into the Caribbean in search of pirate treasure; pirates pursue
- Winter Holiday: the lake freezes allowing a sledge-based expedition to the 'north pole'; the 'D's are introduced
- Coot Club: The Ds join the Death and Glory kids in the Norfolk Broads but the excitement is just as great when birds have to be protected from rowdies.
- We Didn't Mean to go to Sea: The Swallows accidentally find themselves at sea in a yacht they scarcely know: for my money this is the most dramatic and exciting book of the series.
- Secret Water: The Swallows are joined by the Amazons in an expedition to map some tidal mud-flats
- The Big Six: The Death and Glory kids have to be cleared of accusations of crime; the Ds help.
- Missee Lee: The Swallows and Amazons and Captain Flint are shipwrecked near China and captured by a lady Chinese pirate with a taste for Latin.
- Pigeon Post: The Swallows and Amazons and Ds search for gold in the hills above the Lake; one of my favourites
- The Picts and the Martyrs: The Ds have to hide in the hills when the Great Aunt comes to stay with the Amazons
- Great Northern: The Swallows and Amazons and Ds and Captain Flint are protecting birds in the far north of Scotland