7 April 2016
In the early hours of the 15th April 1912, RMS Titanic sank in the North Atlantic Ocean with the loss of over 1500 passengers and crew. Much has been written about this catastrophic maritime disaster and there have been myriad book and movies made about the events of that cold April night. What The Midnight Watch does differently is that it focuses on the role of the SS Californian, which was sailing just a few miles away from the Titanic, close enough, in fact, to warn the ship, by radio, of impending danger from ice, but yet, it failed to respond to eight distress flares which the Titanic later sent up into the night sky.
In this novel, the story focuses on the events of the 15th April, the dialogue between the SS Californian ship’s crew and the investigation by journalist John Steadman which reveals a story rich in intrigue and alive with gossip and innuendo.
The author has done a commendable job in bringing this little known story to life and by using what scant facts there are available about the SS Californian’s role in the disaster, he has developed an absorbing, almost biopic style novel. There is much to take in, particularly around the ship’s crew and their actions, which I thought gave the book its strength, and yet, the stubbornness of Steadman to get to the crux of the story is quite engrossing and makes for fascinating reading. I especially liked the way the story was divided into three parts, with part three being particularly well done.
Overall, The Midnight Watch is a fascinating story, and as the anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic looms once again, it’s refreshing to have a new slant on an old story, never forgetting, of course those 1500 souls who lost their lives in the ice and cold of a North Atlantic night in April, 1912.
Best read with … a hasty sandwich and a bourbon chaser, clinking with ice..