Aboard a whaling ship there are many dangers, including members of the crew. But the secrets the men keep in North Water by Ian McGuire are most dire.
Two men with reputations that they’re attempting to obscure join the crew of the whaling ship the Volunteer. Henry Drax is a mean, brutal harpooner trying to make his fortune and Patrick Sumner is an ex-army surgeon trying to escape his past in India. As the men go about their jobs on the ship, Sumner uncovers a dastardly deed done to a cabin boy, driving him to find out who the perpetrator is. Pitting all the men aboard against each other as potential culprits, their fates are sealed as they work to survive in the arctic.
A quick and gritty read with the brutal experience of a nefarious plot taking place on a whaling ship is explored in this narrative. The presentation of Drax at the outset of the story and then quickly shifting to Sumner was a bit disorienting, despite this book making more of Sumner’s story and experience than that of Drax. The writing is incredibly descriptive and helps to set the scene and situations taking place, but it didn’t really explore any new territory of either the whaling world or the human condition of the late nineteenth century.
Overall, I’d give it a 3 out of 5 stars.