The story follows William and Elizabeth on a dangerous sea voyage to Bahia, Brazil where they intend to salvage their relative's coffee bean farm, yet upon arriving do not find a lush and peaceful farm, but danger in the form of cholera and their accidental involvement with the local landowners intent on assassinating the future leader of Bahia. William, his wife Elizabeth his brother in law and Elizabeth's two sisters are on a long sea voyage from to Brazil after hearing that their Uncle has passed, leaving his Brazilian coffee bean farm unattended to. William and Elizabeth intend to not only successfully manage the farm but also use some of their earnings to pay off debt they have acquired. They set out to sea, but with two weeks left on their voyage, a great deal of the crew and passengers contract cholera. To compound the ship's troubles, they become caught in a storm that rages for many nights, battering the ship so that it is only on it is last legs. At this point, many of the passengers have succumbed to the cholera, their bodies rotting below deck and several key crewman needed to sail the ship had been lost at sea during the worst of the storm. Not only that, but the remaining passengers must now deal with a lack of food, food which happens to be stored below deck in the same area where the dead cholera victims are grouped. The morning after the storm, the battered ship makes it a mile out from the port of Brazil when they are met by a Brazilian ship. Initially, the passengers believe they are saved but are dismayed when the Brazilian ship orders them to turn around. They will not allow a ship carrying the cholera disease to dock in the harbor. “Turn around,” they warn, “or we will be forced to sink your ship.”
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The ship is now drifting quite aimlessly as the group is unsure of where to make port. After some days, they are approached by a ship of Brazilian fishermen who seem quite interested in the state of their ship. William and his family believe the men are there to offer them assistance but soon come to find the fishermen want nothing more than to lock them below deck and take off with their remaining goods. William's family is forced to comply with the much stronger fishermen and can do nothing as they are locked below and the pirates make off leaving their ship to sink.
Fortunately, when the ship sinks the little group happened to be closer to land then they originally presumed. Unfortunately, however, once shipwrecked William is separated from the rest of his family when they wash up on a separate part of the beach. William searches the stretch of beach and finds his brother in-law Charles, who tells him the women have been captured by freed plantation slaves. The two venture further into the jungle and come across a plantation. They tell their story to the plantation owner over drinks, but what they don't realize is that the drinks are drugged. When they come to, the find the plantation owner is dead, stabbed in the back with a knife William had been carrying in his waistband. The Bahia militia coincidentally finds the men in this state and takes them into custody as they look quite suspicious. Indeed, it looks as if the two men murdered the affluent plantation owner. Once in prison, they hear from other captives that there is unrest in the state of Bahia. Renegade slaves and angry plantation owners seek to assassinate the future leader of Bahia, an eight year old boy named Dom Pedro the Second. Dom Pedro has come down with the cholera himself. The government decides they will grant William and Charles a pardon for the murder of the plantation owner (regardless of the fact that they were innocent and framed by angry ex-slaves) if they agree to medical testing to determine if one of them is immune to the disease. If one of them is immune and gives Dom Pedro a blood transfusion to save his life, the government will rescue and return the women, one of which, Elizabeth, has also contracted cholera. After being forced by a corrupt government doctor to give blood, it is discovered that William has blood that is immune to the cholera and is now in possession of a small vial of it. He must choose between saving the life of Dom Pedro or saving the life of his ailing wife. As it happens, the corrupt doctor has no intention of saving the life of Dom Pedro. He intends to draw William's blood, switch the vial with a vial of peasant's blood and give Dom Pedro the tainted blood, thus killing him. William discovers the doctor's plan and exposes him to the government and the doctor is put away and eventually dies himself from the cholera. Happily, now that is evident that William's blood can provide a clean cure for cholera, a new doctor draws his blood and transfuses both Dom Pedro and William's wife with the blood, curing them both. The family is finally able to make their way to their deceased Uncle's coffee bean farm, where their widowed Aunt has been awaiting their arrival.
Best part of story, including ending:
I like a good mystery story and I like one even better that takes place in South America in a lush jungle. Interspersed with the mystery were historical events of the actual unrest of the Brazilian state of Bahia. I enjoy a good historical fiction.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was the end scene, where the group, now healthy and together again set sail from Bahia after their harrowing journey. After reading about them escaping pirates, suffering from cholera and botched blood drawings, I was happy to see them finally get to go home. The description of the sea being bright blue and the air fresh and clear gave an impression of new beginnings. I was happy to read a pleasant ending.
Opinion about the main character:
I liked William's tenacity, although what else could he do in such a perilous situation. He could have given up and succumbed to his fear and despair but instead he rises to the occasion and outwits the corrupted doctor. He also not only cares about the fate of his wife but also the fate of the future leader of Bahia and by extension the fate of Bahia itself. William is a selfless character.