This exciting and energetic narrative works at several levels, against a backdrop of the ‘preservation versus modernisation’ debate. William Johnstone, the hesitant son of the local newspaper editor, discovers that an old shipwreck in his local harbour is a significant historic vessel. The plot unfolds through rapid action as William, with the help of a local librarian, tries to save the ship and wharf buildings from developers. He is eventually successful in getting protected status for the area, but not before finding himself in several threatening situations with the school bully, whose father happens to be the thwarted developer.
The issue of bullying forms a core theme to this novel as both William and his father Ted are bullied by the father and son team of Danny and Dylan Mills. With the help of his friends, William eventually finds the courage to fight back – on one occasion quite literally. Gradually, Danny and his gang are revealed as cowards. By standing up to the bullies, Ted’s newspaper is saved from bankruptcy and William’s school life becomes more settled. After attempting to set fire to the SS Shannon so that the development can’t go ahead, Danny is arrested and his father’s plans come to nothing, thus proving that bullying doesn’t pay.