© Julia Jones, illustration © Claudia Myatt.
This is the fourth book in the “Strong Winds” series, all of which I’ve read and reviewed here. I was first attracted to the series because of connections to Arthur Ransome, a favorite author of mine and Julia Jones. She puts references and some Ransome-ish plot elements into the series, and while I’ve enjoyed them all, at first I was a little disappointed that they weren’t more like Ransome’s novels for children. I’m over that now, I was able to enjoy “The Lion of Sole Bay” for itself alone, and it’s a fine adventure story and thriller with interesting historical aspects. You don’t need to have read the previous books to enjoy it.
Luke, the protagonist, has appeared in the other books, but as one of a large cast of characters. This time he’s on his own, supposedly staying with his dad, Bill Whiting, on a boat that’s being refurbished in a remote mooring on the river Deben on England’s east coast near Southwold. Trouble is, when he shows up for his holiday, Luke’s dad is nowhere to be found. Neighbors in another boat from Holland, including a girl named Helen, are strange and unhelpful. Meanwhile, another girl named Angel who has some severe learning disabilities (including excess energy and inability to concentrate and sit still) is in a boatyard with some boys. They’ve broken in and are playing around the boats on bikes, daring each other to ever more dangerous tricks, when a serious accident happens injuring a man working there.
These three very different young people: Luke, Helen and Angel soon find their lives intertwined with plenty of trouble for all of them. There’s a plot to steal a valuable relic, a fire at the mooring that gets out of hand, and finally a kidnapping that takes them all out to sea in very dangerous weather with some even more dangerous adults, and no one on shore knows where they are! This final section of the book is quite thrilling, a sailing adventure that will keep you on the edge of your seat. In all, a fine story well told.