The Cruise of the Alerte is one part travel guide, one part high seas adventure, and one part farce. It is the story of E.F. Knight, an English writer and lawyer in 1889, who receives a map that claims the location of buried pirate treasure and his subsequent adventure (if you could call it that) in following it.
From what I can tell, it is a true story, written by E.F. Knight himself. Truthfully, this is confirmed by the book itself. It lacks the high adventure, harrowing thrills and dervish like plot twists that most fictional tails, especially those involving lost pirate treasure, contain. However, its true story label turns it from a dull tale into a droll and some times hilariously farcical yarn.
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From how he obtained the map (a story that involves the changing of hands three or four times, and hearty promises of integrity) to his crew (a handful of eager 'gentlemen adventurers' paid in portions of whatever is found, none of whom had any sea-faring experience) to the eventual island, a character in and of itself (an impossible to reach hunk of rock infested by flesh eating crabs). Every page has you snorting with laughter, wondering how Mr. Knight could possibly have made it through the experience to write the book.
Despite this lack of imagination driven adrenaline, The Cruise of the Alerte is an enjoyable experience. Knight's prose is well composed and easy to read as well as being agreeably typical of the time. The real life and first hand experience means the book is filled with amusing anecdotes and details, from local ports to the stores and supplies brought with them. These two strengths more or less carry the book, making it diverting and engaging.
Essentially, The Cruise of the Alerte is a fast read that makes up in amusing and true details what it lacks in pulse pumping plot line.
About the Reviewer:
Sigmund A. Werndorf is a Los Angeles born student residing in San Francisco California, where he can be found hunting down antiquities and curiosities, passionately pushing the boundaries of radical culinary experimentation, exploring the dangerous world of modern music, and writing reams upon reams of papers that no one actually reads.
He is also curator for the correspondences of Johan B. Hackworth.