In the Wake of Madness

Written by Joan Druett
Review by Lisa Ann Verge

In 1841 the whaleship Sharon sails out of Massachusetts for the rich hunting grounds of the South Pacific. Halfway through the voyage, Captain Howes Norris is brutally murdered by three native seamen, while the rest of his crew is out chasing whales. Druett, an award-winning maritime historian, recreates this story using the captain’s log, crew lists, newspaper accounts of the time, as well as the recently-discovered personal papers and journals of two of the original crewmembers. Since the murderers were “savages,” no official inquiry was ever made into the crime. An imaginative retelling of an old sailor’s yarn, this book offers a fast-paced story, an in-depth look at whalemen and the dangerous lives they led, and a glimpse into the psyche of a man very much like Melville’s Ahab.