Mariah Mundi and the Ship of Fools by G P Taylor

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Mariah Mundi and the Ship of Fools by G P Taylor

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Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Stefan Bachmann
Reviewed by Stefan Bachmann
Summary: The practically-perfect conclusion to an excellent series. Rich and cleverly plotted, this Gothic thriller is G. P. Taylor at his best.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: September 2009
Publisher: Faber Children's Books
ISBN: 978-0571227006

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Mariah Mundi is leaving the famed Prince Regent Hotel of his past adventures and going out into the wider world. This time, his friend and mentor, Captain Charity, is bringing him along on board a luxury liner called the Triton, as it races another liner, the Ketos, across the Atlantic. Charity's mission is to protect the prize money that the Triton carries in its hold. But someone doesn't want the Triton to win. In fact, they don't even want to give it a chance. What they want is the prize money, preferably before they sink the Triton to the bottom of the sea.

Wow, I love that premise: a tale of murder, mystery and mind-reading Chinese dwarfs set on a great ocean-steamer around the turn of the century. Think Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express, only one step up. It's claustrophobic, and because of the time constraints with the ship having to win against a rival liner, also incredibly taut. Then add to that the several different parties that want the ship destroyed, planting bombs, sabotaging the engines, and attempting to ransom a billionaire-passenger's daughter. It's a great hook, and I was caught up in the conflict right away.

The concept of the plot, and the narrative construction, is the best part of this book, which actually surprised me. I've always thought Mr Taylor's plots were somewhat haphazard. Exciting events are strung up one after another, usually with a minimum of explanation, getting ever more complex and suspenseful, until only pages from the end an anti-climatic revelation pops up that more-or-less ties everything together. The result is that his books are incredibly absorbing and fast-paced, but rarely entirely satisfying.

And now along comes The Ship of Fools and he fixes basically all the problems I ever had with his writing. The characters are conflicted, three-dimensional, and quite compelling, the dialogue is assured, purple prose almost never crops up, and... Well, the plot is still insanely complex, but since all the many pieces fall into place in the end, and everything adds up so satisfyingly, I can hardly consider that a fault.

And of course, all the things that made G. P. Taylor so popular in the first place are still there, too: his sharp eye for descriptive detail and scene-setting, the plot-twists, the suspense, and the creepy moments.

There's no magic this time around, though, unlike the previous two. All things weird and ghostly are given rational explanations. I thought I might mention that, because I know I used to be severely disappointed when all the interesting stuff turned out making boring old sense.

Like the previous installments, however, this book is self-contained. You can read it without having read either of its predecessors. Still, I wouldn't recommend starting Mariah's adventures with this book. A lot of the background information about the two main characters is missing, and the constant referencing of earlier adventures might get annoying to those out of the loop. So just start at book one and go on form there. Each one is better than the last, and Bookbag loved them all, so you definitely won't be disappointed.

Thanks, Faber, for sending Bookbag a copy!

If you've already read the Mariah Mundi series and are looking for something beyond, try The Story of Cirrus Flux by Matthew Skelton. It has many similarities to G. P. Taylor's style – suspense, scares, and atmosphere aplenty – and tons of wonderfully researched period detail to boot. You might also enjoy F. E. Higgins's The Eyeball Collector, a rather literary, Dickensian adventure that focuses more on moody atmosphere and creepy plot twists than out-and-out action.

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