Having spent many years cruising the canals and rivers of England myself, in a previous life. I became familiar with narrow boats and the complexities of using locks, finding moorings and steering a sometimes large and, occasionally unwilling it seemed, boat through narrow passageways and tunnels. The countryside is beautiful, the pace relaxing and the boating community, friendly and welcoming. So, when I read the blurb about this month’s second book review, I was immediately engaged by the premise of the book. It is Canal Pushers by Andy Griffee and published in paperback by Orphans Publishing (www.orphanspublishing.co.uk) on the 4th June.
Jack Johnson is seeking a fresh start. He’s a recently divorced, unemployed, ex- journalist. He decides to make a fresh start living on a narrow boat on England’s canals. The only trouble is he’s never been on a canal boat before, let alone managing a 64ft vessel on his own.
To his good fortune he meets the enigmatic Nina, who is seeking escape from her life for her own reasons and is a competent boater. They have a chance encounter with a young lad who is begging. He is later found dead in the canal. This event engages Jack’s investigative interest. Soon the pair are in deeper danger than they could have imagined. Was the boy’s death accidental and related to drugs, or something more sinister? Is it linked to other deaths? Is there a serial killer stalking the quiet waterways of England?
I was expecting something slightly twee, a little bit Agatha Raisin maybe. From this new thriller series, introducing Jack Johnson and Nina Wilde and their boat Jumping Jack Flash. But I was delighted to find a modern, quite gritty thriller, which was nevertheless told with humour and an obvious passion for boating. The idea of a cat and mouse chase on something that can only go at 4 miles per hour amused me. There are definitely lots of places to disappear on the canal system however, some sections having no road access and in miles of empty, often glorious countryside.
I’ve had the misfortune to fall into a canal myself in the past, stepping off the prow of the boat confidently onto what I thought was bank, but which was just grass. I was lucky that the canal was only 3 foot deep. My main concern was Weils disease, an infection you can get from the water. However, some brief research showed that some sections of canal are much deeper, having been dug out for vessels of a heavier nature and deeper draft. Modern dredging of canals, as their use has become popular for leisure boating has restored many canals to a deeper depth too. Maybe I wouldn’t be so lucky now.
Andy Griffee is an experienced boater himself, and his descriptions of the practicalities of life on a boat were very good. I was reminded about the cramped but well laid out living conditions and that you only got hot water if you’d run the engine. He kindly missed out all the topping of water and fuel and the dreaded pumping out of the loo. TMI! I was also reminded about the slight rivalry between hire and owned boats. The other thing that he missed, was that there’s always a man with a dog watching you attempt any difficult manoeuvre! Even in the middle of nowhere! This level of joyful reminiscence was tempered by a story of drugs, gangs and a serial killer! There was a sense of peril and a real tenseness in the chase.
This is English author Andy Griffee’s (www.andygriffee.co.uk ) first of two books in the Johnson and Wilde Mystery series, the second book in the series is River Rats which is due out later this year. Andy is a former BBC Journalist, who, when not writing crime thrillers is a breeder of rare pig and the owner of 1964 Triumph Spitfire. He lives in Worcestershire with his wife and three dogs.
I look forward to getting my hands on a copy of River Rats and diving into the future adventures of Jack, Nina and their gorgeous shipmate, Eddie the dog. The narrow boat is a great tool for moving the story to other locations. So, I’m looking forward to being along for the journey.
I suggest you quietly slip your moorings and head down to your local book shop or download a copy of Canal Pushers, then prepare to discover the tranquil backwaters of Britain from your favourite berth.
Reviewed by: Georgina Murphy
This review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour. To see what the other reviewers thought visit their blogs listed below. Then, if you get a copy come back and tell us what you thought, we’d love the feed Back.