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MURDER AFLOAT by Jane Leslie Conly


by Jane Leslie Conly

Age Range: 10 - 14

Pub Date: Oct. 5th, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-4231-0416-2
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Fourteen-year-old Ben, a well-to-do boy from Baltimore, is inadvertently shanghaied onto an oyster-dredging boat operating on the Chesapeake Bay in 1868. Conditions for him and the other captives, a motley group of German immigrants, are brutal. The captain, cruel and often drunk, thinks nothing of enforcing his will by murder, and victims abound. Enduring the harsh conditions, Ben gradually learns the trade and befriends the other sailors (none of whom, alas, are fully developed characters). Given an opportunity, many escape but have only slight luck finding help. Propelled from one adventure into another, Ben leaves behind his boyish innocence and develops a worldly-wise attitude that leads, ultimately, to a life-changing decision some readers may find wrenching. Time and place are believably depicted, and Ben’s first-person narration is engaging and emotionally true, making for a convincing coming-of-age tale with an unusual setting. Conly vividly depicts a world of oyster piracy and murderous mayhem, with many boats’ crews comprised mostly of kidnapped immigrants; given the intriguing setting, an historical note would have been a welcome addition. (Historical fiction. 10-14)