All aboard for a rollicking read

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 December, 2009, 12:00am

Mariah Mundi and the Ship of Fools
G.P. Taylor
Faber and Faber
ISBN 978 0 571 22700 6

When he was 15, Mariah Mundi left the Chiswick Colonial School for orphans. The school governors found him a job as a magician's assistant at the Prince Regent, a gigantic luxury hotel perched on a cliff in a seaside town in the north of England. There Mariah met the enigmatic Captain Jack Charity who works for the shadowy Bureau of Antiquities.

Captain Jack and Mariah became caught up in the spine-tingling secrets of the Prince Regent hotel in G.P. Taylor's best-selling The Midas Box and The Ghost Diamonds.

Master Mundi is a fictional teen hero who doesn't fit into the Harry Potter mould, and the first two books were refreshingly different for readers swamped with tales of wizards and magic.

In The Ship of Fools, Captain Jack and Mariah are sailing on board the luxury liner The Triton. The Prince Regent has been left far behind, but The Triton, with its endless corridors and dark corners, is a brilliant substitute for the spooky hotel. The Prince Regent was a character in its own right, and in this new adventure, Taylor pulls the same clever trick of making the setting as important as the characters and the story.

The ship is taking part in a race across the Atlantic, and Captain Jack is there in his capacity as an agent of the Bureau of Antiquities to guard a vast hoard of gold on board.

To his horror, Mariah discovers a killer is stalking him. But that's not the only danger. Mariah and the Captain uncover a plot to blow up The Triton. With a bomb on board, a heap of eccentric characters who could be killers, tigers, and a ventriloquist's dummy with a life of its own. This could be Mariah's final adventure.

The pace never lets up and there is a sense of danger on almost every page. Taylor gets his characters into tight corners and litters the plot with cliff-hangers and red herrings. It is a glorious read packed with excitement - the product of an imagination working at top gear.