Considered by many reviewers to be Brian Callison's finest and most poignant novel, THE SEXTANT presents a gripping mix of war at sea and contemporary mystery ashore: of terrible events, and courage and fortitude made only bearable by a love that transcends even damnation.
In 1941 the British cargo ship MV Highlander was torpedoed off the west coast of Scotland during a violent storm. She sank immediately with all hands … or so the Admiralty believed at the time, as did John Herschell, the son of her captain and now a shipmaster in his own right. Until, four decades later, he is hailed to Strathclyde Police Headquarters to collect the recovered proceeds of a sneak-thief's robbery - only to find himself confronted by a legacy which simply cannot still exist ... his father's precious sextant: the navigating instrument which could only have gone down with Herschell senior when his ship met its end -yet there it sits before him, in defiance of all possibility. Secure in its original rosewood box, lovingly cared for, only recently polished - and most definitely not resurrected from any Atlantic grave.
And so, armed only with scant information, John and his soul-mate Fran set off for the remote far north of Scotland in quest of the truth, to a tiny coastal village called Laichy huddled by the wild sea loch of Fhadaig. With compelling skill Brian Callison weaves together the last tortured hours of Captain Herschell's Highlander, and the evermore discomfiting pilgrimage of the Captain's son. Somewhere within that quiet, ostensibly friendly hamlet lies the answer to the riddle of the sextant, and the fate of a tormented ship's crew. It is hard to believe that so peaceful, so seemingly innocent a place can cloak black mystery, yet beneath its gentle domesticity John and Fran discover fear, deceit and, possibly, mass murder.
Too late, as a forty-year-old shroud of unimaginable horror closes inexorably around them, do they begin to suspect that it is not one person alone who guards Laichy's dreadful secret. It is a whole village that lies.
This distinctly different and absolutely first-rate novel holds the attention throughout every page … one of the most absorbing war-at-sea epics ever written. PUBLISHERS' WEEKLY.
- Steamship eBooks, November 2012
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