In the harsh winter of December 1889, the sailing vessel Irex leaves Scotland, bound for Rio de Janeiro. She carries three thousand tons of pig iron and just three passengers for what should be a routine voyage. But Captain Will Hutton soon discovers that one of his passengers hides a horrifying secret that threatens the lives of everyone on board. As the Irex battles relentless storms, Hutton fights battles of his own as he becomes mired in the intrigues of his passengers.
When the Irex is wrecked off the Isle of Wight six weeks later, it falls to the county coroner, Frederick Blake, to unravel the events that overtook the doomed ship. He quickly runs into opposition – powerful forces within the British Establishment are working to spike his inquest. Locked in a conflict with the sinister agents sent to obstruct the investigation, he begins to discover that nothing aboard the Irex is what it first seemed, while the evil that stalked the ship now threatens anyone who seeks to expose it…
Irex is an atmospheric mystery, set in a rich Victorian world, packed with intrigue, twists and unforgettable characters — the gripping first novel by Carl Rackman.
The story is told via alternating chapters…the ill-fated maiden voyage of the Irex and the inquest into the wreck. The format works well and as the story unfolds, you realise how unreliable individual viewpoints are and that every angle needs to be brought together to get to the truth. However, with some passengers not surviving the voyage, others missing and those who give testimony unclear about some aspects of what actually happened, this proves difficult for the coroner.
Rackman succeeds in immersing us in the world of Victorian sea faring. His descriptions of the ship are precise, enabling the reader to envision being aboard. The claustrophobic sense being on a ship gives you is strong. The chapters on the storm and wreck are vivid, detailed and build the tension superbly, as does his handling of the ever increasing suspense and danger the coroner and his colleagues find themselves in.
The author develops rounded, believable characters. They are human, make mistakes and are often either second guessing themselves or in conflict with themselves about what to do next.
Rennie, the Glasgow journalist, is, to me, a Victorian version of Brookmyre’s Jack Parlabane.
A thoroughly enjoyable read.
Thanks to #TheWriteReads for a digital copy of this to review for this #BlogTour .