In 1802, during the brief period of peace in England’s war with France, Captain Oliver Quintrell is given a special commission. Under secret orders, the frigate HMS Elusive is despatched to a remote island at the end of the earth in search of an unusual treasure – the “floating gold” of the title. Although the crew faces the expected hazards of a voyage into the least-navigated and unpredictable Southern Ocean, this story doesn’t feature the guts-and-glory cannonade that is so often the basis of Napoleonic-era fiction, but is rather an intriguing mystery featuring murder, spies and skulduggery. The plotting and pace are well maintained throughout and the penultimate chapter is page-turning historical fiction at its best.
Quintrell is a welcome new addition to the cavalcade of fictional naval heroes, as also the young carpenter, Will Ethridge. Female readers hoping for romantic interludes may be disappointed and find Quintrell’s love entanglements low-key, but there is scope for this aspect to be expanded in a potential sequel.
Margaret Muir’s own first-hand experiences of life at sea on tall ships add honesty and veracity to the writing. Her historical research is on the whole impeccable, although some esoteric anachronisms will be spotted by Nelson’s Navy aficionados who know that the terminlogy specific to RN frigates of the time is somewhat different from that relating to square riggers, but this is unlikely to concern most readers. Floating Gold is a book to be enjoyed by anyone who likes historical mysteries or cracking adventure yarns about ships and the sea.