Run Afoul

Written by Joan Druett
Review by John R. Vallely

Joan Druett is a New Zealander known for her nonfiction writings on maritime history. She also writes historical fiction by sailing along with her creation, Wiki Coffin (a child of a white man and a Maori woman). Coffin is an accomplished linguist navigating his passage between the cultures and peoples which surround him. His language skills enable him to join the late 1830s US Exploring Expedition commanded by Charles Wilkes, the flamboyant and idiosyncratic captain. Life on board ship is tense as Coffin encounters scientists and sailors of diverse personalities. The voyage is interrupted by a chance encounter with Coffin’s father, Captain William Coffin, and two murders which result in Wiki Coffin seeking the real killer, rather than see his father executed for the crimes.