The Collector of Lost Things
In 1845, mankind’s wholesale, careless despoiling of the Arctic is underway. Collector Eliot Saxby has taken passage hoping to find survivors of the latest victim brought to extinction: the helpless, flightless Great Auk. His life on Amethyst is strange and frightening. Captain Sykes, with his amiability and his embroidery, the disturbingly enigmatic First Mate French, bearlike and taciturn Second Mate Talbot, together with the whole crew, are all consummate sailors, adventurers, huntsmen and profit-seekers whose commodity is dead bodies.
Saxby’s flamboyant fellow passenger, Bletchley, longing to use his new handmade rifles, undergoes continuing mental collapse following his first witnessing of a sickening massacre. His fragile and compassionate companion, Clara, bears an uncanny, overwhelming likeness to Saxby’s lost love, Celeste. Amidst mounting destruction Saxby and Clara discover a living treasure which at any cost must be kept secret throughout the homeward voyage. But Saxby is now a haunted man, enduring an assault on his senses, victim of a terrifying phantom, The Huntsman.
Readers may find that this tragic story of pride, cruelty and reckless greed is only made tolerable by its glorious celebration of the natural world and the intricate, minutely detailed presentation of life on Amethyst, even although this old former slave ship, at her life’s end, is now trading in the ruthless depredation of the savage and beautiful Arctic. This novel deserves to be a prize winner.