A Stranger on Board by Cameron Ward

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A Stranger on Board by Cameron Ward

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Category: Thrillers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A really twisty thriller that keeps you guessing right to the end. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: June 2022
Publisher: Penguin
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1405951159

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Right from the beginning, we know this will not turn out well. Eight days into the trip to deliver the superyacht Escape to Antigua, all 300 tonnes and six decks will be floundering without power in the Atlantic. Those of the crew who are left will be cowering in fear a fellow crew member tries to pick them off, one by one. Some are already dead. They are three days from shore and there is no way of making contact. But let's go back to when all this started, in Southampton.

Sarah French was sold the idea of being the security officer on the Escape as a form of therapy. It would help her recover from the trauma which led to her leaving the marines. She just needs to fly out to Majorca where the yacht has been refurbished and sail to Antigua where the owner wants the final fittings to be done. Easy, peasy. There will be a skeleton crew and no stops on the way. The skipper's Greg Mayer and he's experienced when it comes to superyachts. Karis is the first mate and Jack Foster is the chief engineer. It's pretty obvious to Sarah that alcoholism has come hot on the heels of his wife's death. The remainder of the crew seems reasonably friendly and competent. Less welcome to the crew is the presence of the company VP, Jason Chen and then the arrival of the owner's daughter, Harriet De Witt Fendley who has a penchant for long showers and likes to be waited on.

It's not long before things start to go wrong. The freshwater tanks have been draining into the bilges and water is going to have to be strictly rationed. There's a fire. No one's hurt but how it started in a mystery. Things go missing or don't work. The lightning strike was obviously an act of God - but what about everything else? Sarah's worried that there's something going on that she doesn't know about - and that there's a lack of respect amongst the crew - particularly for Greg. And then the disappearances start.

Oh, but this is a cracker of a story! I felt as though I was on the Escape - the luxury seemed extreme to begin with but a fragility emerged as things started to go wrong. The Captain obviously had his own reasons for ploughing ahead at a ridiculous speed - even when it meant going through a vicious storm when Escape seemed to be in no state to cope with it. Even the first mate, with whom he's in a relationship can't entirely understand why he's so determined.

The characters are great too. We gradually get the story of the trauma which has affected Sarah French so badly and why panic attacks can be triggered so easily. I really rooted for her and she's stayed in my mind after I turned the final page. The crew work well as a group: you can imagine them together on a yacht. They each have a lack of roots and you sense that relationships are generally fleeting.

Did I work out who was behind what was happening? Not only did I not guess - I gave up even attempting to second-guess the ending, which was very satisfying. I'd like to thank the publishers for letting Bookbag have a review copy.

If this book appeals we think that you'll also enjoy The Club by Ellery Lloyd.

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