Reviews by Henry L. Ratliff

Poison Island

by Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch

(1912) Mystery (Murder/Treasure) / Thriller (Search) / Adventure (Quest)

R: * * * *

Plot bullets

  • Harry Rogers is sent away to school. It isn't a good school and Harry doesn't get on well at first. In the town he finds that two old sea captains are far better companions than his school mates. Captain Coffin has wonderful tales to tell. He also has a dark past and supposedly a buried treasure map. Captain Branscome is friends to both and a steadying influence. Harry has also become friends with Mr. Goodfellow, a carpenter and struggling architect.

  • The Captain's tales of treasure are thought of as just that, tales. This all changes when Aaron Glass, an ex-shipmate of Coffin's appears. Glass is an evil man fresh out of prison. He knows of the treasure and plans to get Coffin's map, at any cost.

  • Harry is call home at his father's death. His father was brutally murdered, it appears for the money in a cash box. Miss Belcher, a strong willed neighbor, Miss Plinlimmon, the housekeeper and Mr. Rodgers, a constable, begin to play an important part, as to the reason for the murder and the identity of the murderer.

  • Captain Coffin is later found dead near Harry's father. Two men are dead and money and a treasure map is missing. It is soon determined that Glass is the most likely suspect for the theft and murder.

  • Harry finds the treasure map. Soon all these players will become involved in a treasure hunt in the West Indies. They come to the treasure island. Now, their lives will be in danger from an even greater menace, Doctor BeauregardD (AKA Martin, The Man In Black, The Master of the Island).

  • The island is strange and it's master evil. The adventurers will soon find that there is more than one kind of poison on 'Poison Island'

Reviewed on 2014.08.30

The Ghost Pirates

by William Hope Hodgson

(1909) Ghost story (Pirates) / Thriller (Supernatural) / Nautical

R: * * * * *

Plot bullets

  • A ship is engulfed in a mist. This is no normal sea fog. Evil lurks in it, in the form of a ghost ship and it's blood thursty pirate crew.

  • A series of mysterious accidents begin at night. At first it is thought to be only the sailors tricks, or at worst, the result of their superstitious minds.

  • Strange forms that resemble ancient pirates are seen coming out of the sea to do mischief and murder.

  • One crew member after another, begin to die. The captain and officers no longer consider the accidents and sightings as mere superstition.

  • This ship, as perhaps many other ships that never reached port, must deal a life and death struggle with 'The Ghost Pirates'

I do not consider this a pirate story in the traditional sense.. The crew on board the ship must deal with supernatural beings. The fact that they were pirates in another life, is only a pretext for their blood thirsty designs

Hodgson considers his three stories, 'The House on the Borderland', 'The Boats of the Glen-Carrig' and this story as a trilogy. They are not sequels and not related, except for their emphasis on the supernatural presents of
beings, perhaps from another dimension.

The author is one of my favorite authors of unearthly fiction. His 'Carnacki, The Ghost Finder' is no mere story of things that go bump in the night. It is pure terror.

Read these stories by candlelight on a stormy night.
His 'Night Land' is one of my favorite sci-fi/adventure/pulp/romance/thriller stories of the future..

Posted: 2014/08/28 11:08 pm CDT

Reviewed on 2014.08.28

The Castaways

by Captain Mayne-Reid

(1870) Adventure (Survival) / Young Readers / Nautical (Ship wreck)

Plot bullets

  • Seven persons survive a ship wreck during a typhoon in the Celebes Sea. Soon, only five will be left to find their way to land or starve.

  • Those in the ships small boat are: Captain Robert Redwood his two children (a girl fourteen and a boy sixteen), an Irishman (the ships carpenter and family friend), and a Malay pilot (navigator) named Saloo.

  • A makeshift mast and sail aid them in landing on the East coast of Borneo. The captain can handle his ship at sea, but it is the Malay who knows this region and will keep them alive.

  • The father is constantly, but unintentionally, letting his children get into trouble, which presents action of a continual run of peril and salvation.

  • They learn to survive on the coast and head inland to find a settlement as they fear being detected by Malay pirates.

  • The Malay continues to provide wise council and prompt action to increase the survival chances of 'The Castaways'.

Reid's adventures are in the vein of those young reader adventure stories that supply fast and continuous perils to the brave, honest and upright characters. In all cases there is at least one person who has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of most of the new things they encounter, and takes a rather lecture-like approach to explain things to the others. I believe I will start calling them 'Encyclopedic Survival Adventures'.

Reviewed on 2014.08.27

A Message From the Sea

by Charles Dickens

(1814) Mystery (Search) / Short story (From collection)

From the 1894, Chapman and Hall ]Christmas Stories'.

R: * * * *

Plot bullets

  • A Sea captain finds a bottle. In it is a note that may change the lives of several people.

  • It is not a treasure map, but a confession of past criminal deeds from a stranded, dying man.

  • It may be, if the wise and persistent sea captain has anything to do with it, not the ruin of two brothers and their families, but their deliverance.

  • Confession is good for the soul, and from any quarter, even if via 'A Message From the Sea'.

Reviewed on 2014.08.27

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