Cormorant Crag

June 25, 2007

Cormorant Crag, by George Manville Fenn, is the story of two young morons named Vince and Mike. They remind me very much of two young morons named Tom and Steve. Vince, like Tom, is not quite so much of an idiot as his friend, and Mike, like Steve, eventually learns to shut up and listen to his smarter, less dithery companion. Although Vince does quite a lot of dithering, too.

The two boys live on an island called Cormorant Crag. Vince is the son of Dr. Burnet, and Mike is the son of Sir Francis Ladelle, so they call each other Cinder and Ladle. They’re both the sort of healthy, active, adventurous boy that always populates this kind of book, so they’ve been pretty much all over the small island where they live, except for the end of it called The Scraw. They’re friendly with an old fisherman, Joe Daygo, who knows the area better than anyone, and they repeatedly ask him to take them to The Scraw in his boat. He tells them that it’s dangerous and can”t be done, but they decide he’s just telling them that for some unknown reason of his own. They’re right, but how they know that, exactly, is never really explained.

It’s sort of hard to explain the middle of the book. Vince and Mike find a way into a cave under The Scraw, and are alternately drawn toward it like a magnet and a little bit freaked out by it. They have fun using the cave as a secret hideout for a while, and hey, it sounds like fun. But then they discover and adjoining cave that looks like the headquarters of a group of smugglers, although Mike insists that they must be dead and gone a hundred years ago.

Yeah, well, they’re not. The boys get trapped and kidnapped by smugglers, one of whom is Joe Daygo, who turns out to be a real asshole. The captain, Jacques LeBrun — his English crew calls him Cap’n Jarks — is entertainingly, flamboyantly French, and the most appealing character in the book. Even Vince and Mike, who sort of hate him, grow to respect him.

Eventually, the boys get home, which is good, because they spend the preceding fifty pages or so whining about how their parents must think they’re dead. And sure, their parents must feel awful, and it’s nice that the boys are worried about them, but seriously, I got the point pretty quickly.

One last thing: Manville Fenn has a small following online because of the mildly homoerotic relationships between the characters in his books. The other book of his that I’ve read, Trapped By Malays, lived up to Fenn’s reputation. This one didn’t.

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