Image © estate of Philip Turner, cover illustration by Geoff Hunt.
I’m not sure when I discovered the series of books by Philip Turner about three friends in a small coastal town in England: Peter Beckford, clergyman’s son and mad scientist; David Hughes, carpenter’s son and the steady anchor, and Arthur Ramsgill; farmer’s son and daredevil. Their adventures stretch through their childhood, and this one, the last and the last I’ve found to read, has them in their late teens, just graduated from grammar school and about to face the challenges of university (or not). Reading this book was like revisiting old friends, even if the setting takes them far from home and their previous adventures.
The summer holidays are begun, and the three boys have been taken on as crew on a retired Thames barge captained by their old friend The Admiral, who is planning a long recreational voyage up the coast of Scotland to the northern islands beyond. The plan becomes more complicated and more meaningful when Peter’s Aunt Caroline arrives for a visit, and it turns out she and The Admiral are old friends. In fact, Aunt Caroline’s husband was a pilot who died in a crash while on a World War Two naval mission where The Admiral was also present. The crash occurred on a small, rocky, formidable island in the very area where The Admiral was charting his trip. Soon Aunt Caroline has been invited to join them, and an expedition is planned to try to find the wreckage and/or remains of the downed pilot. When they reach the island, it proves to be as difficult a place to get into and explore as one could imagine. The story of how they manage it and what they find there makes up the best part of the story.
Highly recommended, if you can find it. All Philip Turner’s books are excellent reading.