Twins Ben and Fee MacTavish have always lived with their marine-scientist parents on a submarine, so now they’re nearly 13 and they have to go to a boarding school, clearly no ordinary one’s going to suit them. Luckily they’ve found a school ship, the Tobermory, for budding young sailors. Instead of a head teacher, they have a Captain, they sleep in hammocks, climb the rigging, and there’s a whole new ship language to learn: ‘bilges’ not toilets, ‘companionways’ not stairs. Ben and Fee soon make friends – the first friends they’ve had, other than each other – but there are a few bullies too, including William Hardtack, the Head Prefect of the Upper Deck.
They’ve only been there a few days when they discover that a famous film director and his crew is aboard the Albatross, a ship anchored nearby. They’re making a pirate movie and they need some children from the Tobermory as extras. Names are picked out of a hat, and Ben is really pleased that his is among them, even though all three bullies are going to be extras as well. But it’s not long before Ben becomes very suspicious. He doesn’t trust the director, and he realises there isn’t any film in the camera. He’s sure they’re not making a movie at all – but if not, what are they up?
This is a very nicely produced book with a dust jacket, drawings of the main characters, and some full-page cartoon-strip illustrations throughout. There’s a pleasing array of goodies, baddies, and incompetent adults and, while I was unconvinced by the plot, Alexander McCall Smith’s writing style is as charming as ever.