This is a good, old fashioned adventure story full of derring-do and a clear-cut, no-nonsense morality with all ends satisfyingly and completely tied up at its conclusion. The plot rattles along at a cracking pace, the characters – including the sea – are larger than life and yet the dilemmas always seem real and readers will find themselves cheering on the goodhearted characters whose courage and decency prevail and rejoicing in the downfall of the pantomime villain.
Ned cannot join his parents for his summer holiday from boarding school as they are in Australia, awaiting the birth of their second child. He chooses the best of a series of depressing options and stays with his great aunt at the seaside. She is whisked away to hospital before his arrival and his solitary explorations lead to the discovery of Danielle, a deeply troubled runaway, and Doug, a tramp living the life of a hermit. Neither character’s circumstances are quite what they seem and the power of the book lies not only in its pace and the tensions in the characters’ interactions but in Ned’s discoveries about himself, which lead to a new understanding between him and his parents.