Canal Pushers by Andy Griffee
Hiring a narrowboat with a view to buy after a trial period does not sound a dangerous thing to do, or even something worthy of publicity, but when Jack Johnson gets divorced and finds himself unemployed, it seems to be a safe option. Cruising around at four miles an hour, he believes, will give him time to consider if he wants to find a permanent mooring and go back to work as a journalist. This book, however, is a thriller, which is quite difficult to achieve when one of the main characters is a long and impressive narrowboat called “Jumping Jack Flash” which anchors the action to the side of a canal. This is the first in a series, and it soon becomes clear that more can happen on Britain’s canal system than could be imagined. This book deals with the canals around and through Stratford on Avon and the contrasting waterways of Birmingham. Jack and his new friend Nina discover many things about each other and themselves after spending a few days in each other’s company, but there are many surprises throughout this well written and entertaining novel.I was excited to have the opportunity to read and review this enjoyable book.
This book begins, however, with a description of a lone fisherman, sitting beside a lock and waiting. He has no bait on his hook, however, as what he wants to catch is much larger and more challenging than anything expected from the water way. When a drunken man appears unsteadily on the towpath, he uses his tackle to push the man into the water, and forces him under the water with a large net.
The scene moves to Jack picking up the keys to a sixty four foot narrowboat, and beginning to realise that it will take a bit of starting, steering and negotiating, let alone getting through locks. When he realises that he cannot even close the door he is very grateful to receive an offer of advice from a younger woman who seems to want to remain independent of further conversation. When Jack’s friend Will lets him down, he is happy to take help from the quiet young woman who calls herself Nina. They have not gone far before they encounter a young man who calls himself Sam and who is begging for money and food. Nina and Jack allow Sam to come onto the barge to get cleaned up with his small dog Eddie, and they send him on his way with a small amount of cash. When Sam’s drowned body is found in the canal the following day, Jack and Nina adopt the dog and make further inquiries into what happened to Sam. Their investigations mean that Jack discovers that Sam may well have been involved in something much bigger and illegal that put him at risk, and frightens Jack when he searches for more evidence. To add to the situation, Nina turns out to have a huge problem that has led to her reluctance to talk about herself. Can Jack and Nina hide themselves, Eddie and a narrowboat from all their potential pursuers in the centre of England?
This is a book which has an excellent plot combined with realistic and interesting characters. There is some humour in the dialogue between the interesting characters, and a lot of realism. I thought the setting was very interesting and the canal side life was warmly described. This is a well written thriller with a lot of suspense and some well drawn characters. I found this an excellent beginning to the series and I would be keen to read more books from this author.