When I found that this book was based on the Titanic story my heart sank. Hasn't it been overdone? Three films, and now this "Downton Abbey at Sea" on television? Can Dan James create a gripping ending to his story when everyone knows the end already? Well, yes, he can.
He starts off with a bang, giving us a violent, brutal re-telling of two well-documented events, the Houndsditch Murders and the Sidney Street Siege. His account is accurate in every detail, except that he adds two new characters, a young police officer named Arthur Beck, and the gunman Peter Piatkow, known as Peter the Paointer. According to the account on Google he may not exist. In this book he is only too real.
That was 1911. Cut to April 1912.
Beck suffered serious trauma after the Sidney street siege, when he was shot and wounded in the thigh, and now out of the Police , he has sunk his savings on a first-class ticket on the Titanic, Here we have a great deal of authentic-seeming detail about the grandeur and splendour of the great ship's fixtures and fittings, and meet the New York reporter Martha Heaton.
No actual love-interest as yet, but you never know. The more important thing is that Beck catches sight of a face which was imprinted on his memory, a face he wanted never to see again; a face that was behind the gun which had shot him down in Sidney Street.
And there you have it: three people aboard a doomed ship. Who is going to survive and who is going down with the ship? You can imagine the searching through the labyrinthine corridors, getting help from the Purser, and Lord Ismay, a real person: help from Martha and stewards. Piatkow turns up as a deck-hand. There is terminally ill Swede, Sten-Ake. He plays a key role.
And all the time great ship ploughs on, her engines forced to greater and greater speeds, and now it is April 13th. and now it is April 14th, and now... but now you must read it yourself and see if you have guessed the final answer. I found it most satisfactory. I hope you will too.
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