Tag Archives: Moelfre

The Charter, by Gillian Hamer

I read a good book the other day #16

book jacketA good story well told with plausible plot and setting despite a hint of the ghostly paranormal.

Mystery set in and around the village of Moelfre in Anglesey, Wales, which caught my attention because I know that part of the world somewhat. Not a police procedural, although there are detectives in the story. I was intrigued by the setting and subject matter of the contemporary mystery which is skilfully woven around the historic wreck of the Royal Charter.

The Royal Charter was wrecked in a great storm in the late 1800’s. She came to grief near Moelfre (pronounced, more or less, somewhere between Mole-vra and Moyle-vree, for the un-Welsh) when her anchor chains parted and she was driven ashore onto a rock-bound coast. She was carrying passengers home from Australia to Liverpool reputedly laden with gold from the Australian gold rush. Although the wreck was well observed by people ashore there was heavy loss of life. Rescue services in those days were rudimentary and nobody could actually help the poor souls struggling to reach land from the pounding shipwreck. Many were said to be drowned by the weight of gold in their belts, which allows Gillian E Hamer the opening to weave the ghostly character of a drowned child into her story.

But excuse me if I digress a moment. The real story of the Royal Charter reminds me of the sage advice to modern yachtsmen that no amount of insurance will save your life in a disaster. Far better to spend your money on sound ground tackle (which is what seamen call their anchors and chains), and that, in extremis, you will regret saving money on a dinky modern lightweight job with a piece of string for a warp. When the snarling, jagged teeth of a rock bound coast threaten to leeward, even the smallest rag of sail is too much for your boat to bear and its thrashing engine seems little better than a noisy egg whisk, then the biggest, heaviest sodding great anchor you can possibly heave over the side is the only one that matters. It might just save your life. Claiming the insurance when you’re dead is not a good plan. Heartfelt personal experience in there somewhere, I think.

But back to the book in hand (or at least the book in my Kindle). With that mix of contemporary fictional mystery and historic reality it is no surprise that the author managed to weave in a thread of the ghostly paranormal. That ghost of a drowned child appears momentarily to help or warn the protagonist. Now, I’m not much inclined to believe in ghosts, other than the ones we willingly or wilfully conjure within our own heads and in dreams, but I liked the way the author managed this. It did not at all jar even with a ghostly sceptic like me, if you see what I mean.

Gillian Hamer allowed herself some licence with geography, adjusting the village and cove of Moelfre and its surrounding countryside a little to suit her story, which is fair enough. It’s what most writers do, including me. Anyone who knows the place will find pleasure in recognising it in the text, and I found myself comfortably fitting the story into its settings. I was quickly drawn to the characters too, a daughter returning from London life to clear up the estate of a late parent in the sticks; her high-flyer footballer husband; and the various characters she re-encounters from her youth and childhood in Anglesey. A good story well told, with plausible plot and setting despite a hint of the paranormal. Enjoyed it. 4/5 stars from me.