Jack Ahlquist’s a troubled guy; a decorated veteran with post traumatic stress; he’s having flashbacks to combat, and drifting between jobs. Doctors could fix his wounds, but not his marriage or his career. He’s spent time caring for his much-loved grandfather, Eddie, but he didn’t expect to inherit Eddie’s cottage and century-old sailing boat, the Draca. The legacy drives a wedge through an already dysfunctional family; Jack’s estranged father expected to take it all.
Draca was was the last of the sailing pilot cutters, old Eddie’s pride and joy. Eddie, obsessed with his Viking ancestry, has left a last letter for Jack; he wants Draca burned, with his body inside: a fireship funeral. ‘Draca will know where,’ he writes.
Impossible, of course. Draca is beached and derelict. Besides, Jack has other ideas; Draca will sail again, and restoring her gives Jack a new purpose in life. Good therapy for a damaged hero, some say, but yachtswoman ‘George’ Fenton has doubts.
George is an orphan with attitude who’s made her own way from care and foster homes to be manager of the local boatyard. She saw changes in old Eddie that were more sinister even than cancer, and by the time the old boat tastes the sea again, the man she dares to love is going the same way. Like his grandfather, Jack finds a wild exhilaration in rough seas, alcohol, and ever riskier sailing. Combat stress, some say, but George senses a malevolence about Draca itself, and it centres on a Viking carving that Eddie fitted as a figurehead. To George, Jack’s ‘purpose’ has become ‘possession’; the boat owns the man.
So is Jack haunted by his past, or just haunted? When Grandpa Eddie died raving that he ‘tried to give it back’, was he talking about the Viking figurehead, or had his cancer gone to his brain?
One thing is sure; four characters are heading for a confrontation; there’s Jack, the flawed hero on a mission to self-destruct. There’s his controlling and disinherited father, pushing him ever closer to the edge. And there’s George, the feisty yachtswoman, trying to pull him back.
And between them all there’s an old boat with some very dark secrets and perhaps a mind of its own.
When those four collide, there may be no survivors.