Back in the year 1984, on the picture-poster tropical island of Rarotonga, I literally fell into whaling history when I tumbled into a grave. A great tree had been felled by a recent hurricane, exposing a gravestone that had been hidden for more than one and a half centuries. It was the memorial to a young whaling wife, who had sailed with her husband on the New Bedford ship Harrison in the year 1845. And so my fascination with maritime history was triggered ... resulting in 18 books (so far). The latest -- number nineteen -- is a biography of a truly extraordinary man, Tupaia, star navigator and creator of amazing art.
Wiki Coffin plays many parts on the U.S. Exploring Expedition---sailor, linguist, navigator, and, as half-Maori, cultural go-between. But then the brig Swallow reaches the coast of Patagonia, an area infamous for its rough gauchos and revolutionary spirit, and he must take on his other role, that of agent of U.S. law and order.
A New England whaler shows up, desperate to find the devious trader who has cheated him of a thousand dollars and a schooner. Wiki is assigned to find the missing ship, only to follow a trail of clues to a dead body, half-buried in a hill of salt, its skull picked clean by vultures. The adventure unravels in the impoverished village of El Carmen de Patagones, where the threat of French invasion is imminent, and business is at a standstill under the orders of General de Rosas, the tyrant of Buenos Aires.
Wiki must risk both life and reputation in pursuit of a vicious and determined killer who has set his sights on another target: the U.S. Exploring Expedition itself.