Written by Chris Angus — At 2:20am on 15 April 1912, RMS Titanic sank on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York, with the loss of 1517 lives. The ship that was supposed to be unsinkable collided with an iceberg and went down in the North Atlantic. It is now remembered as one of the worst peacetime maritime disasters in history. Today is the centenary of the tragedy and its victims are being remembered on both sides of the Atlantic.
The Last Titanic Story is one of several fictionalised re-creations of this event to be published this year, and opens as the great ship is sinking. As the passengers are being evacuated onto life rafts Fourth Officer James T Hennings is heading towards the workshop of the ship’s carpenter, Harold Robinson. His aim is to escape the sinking vessel on one of the ship’s collapsible lifeboats that is in for repairs. He is joined by ship’s purser Will McKibben and his 16-year-old nephew Samuel Mead plus several other seamen. They’re taking with them some of the passengers’ valuables from the ship’s safe.
This is a mystery in three parallel parts. For young Samuel, surviving the disaster means saying goodbye to his old life and living as a dead man. We follow his life from that fateful night through his diary entries until it collides with the second stage of the story 30 years later, and a German U-boat carrying a secret cargo. Even the vessel’s commanding officer Kaptain Fritz-Julius Lempe is being kept in the dark. For Samuel and the captain discovery is not an option, and both know this is a mission they are not expected to return from.
It’s a story of hidden secrets but some are more dangerous than others, especially for protagonists in the modern day sections of the book. They are Laura Engalls, Matt Mosher and Ulrik Kuitse, who is their 15-year-old Inuit guide. Laura has approached journalist Matt with a story that he can’t resist – a diary written by a Titanic survivor and an Inuit family who may be his descendants.
Their expedition quickly descends into a nightmare when their plane crashes on a desolate ice cap and they find themselves pursued by Neo-Nazis who will stop at nothing to get their hands on Samuel Mead’s diary. But why is it so important? The discovery of a perfectly preserved U-boat adds more pieces to the growing jigsaw puzzle, and the real picture gradually unfolds for both Matt and Laura, and also the reader. Little do the pair realise that an expedition to Greenland will end up with them stumbling upon a secret far more sinister than either of them could have anticipated.
The writing is seamless and flows perfectly between each of the three time periods Angus guides you through. Samuel and the German captain’s stories seem to run in parallel but they’re actually headed on a collision course which comes to a head for our contemporary protagonists. Therein lies the tension. It’s a well-crafted, thrilling ride with a shocking conclusion.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars