St. Martin's, Oct 2004, 23.95, 288 pp.
In 1838 Norfolk, someone takes a shot at half Maori William “Wiki” Coffin, Jr. before fleeing the area. Wiki next sees the corpse of a woman in his boat. The Sheriff arrests Wiki for murdering Mrs. Tristam Stanton, wife of the expedition's astronomer. However, not long afterward, the Sheriff frees the “darkie” though he has no papers. Instead he believes that the killer is on the ship the Ex. Ex. already sailing on an exploration expedition in the South Seas. Since Wiki is a linguist with the expedition, the Sheriff asks him to investigate the murder on board the vessel.
As Wiki catches up to the ship, he also begins making inquiries. However, he finds the crew's bias towards his race and national origin makes it difficult to obtain answers as well as delineate who is simply a bigot from a killer. Still, Wiki persists even as the ship is wracked with blunders, confusion, and dangerous decisions that almost sinks the effort before reaching the destination let alone solve a homicide.
This is a terrific historical mystery with the emphasis on real events and relationships circa 1838.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner