This is a book that draws you in slowly but surely. It starts as a simple holiday, sailing with a school acquaintance in the Baltic, in October, and slowly unfolds into adventurous international intrigue. Set at the turn of the 20th century, the action takes place around the German Frisian islands, looking out onto the North Sea, on a small “yacht” with a cabin barely large enough to accomodate its two occupants. Davies, the owner of the boat, has invited Carruthers to spend a couple weeks with him exploring and hunting ducks. Carruthers barely remembers Davies, but eventually decides to take him up on the offer, as he has little else to do. When he arrives, and sees the holiday “yacht” he nearly turns back and goes home, but decides to stay. Soon he begins to surmise that Davies has an ulterior motive (this, despite the fact that Davies is an unusually open and honest person) and finds out that Davies needs an accomplice to investigate what he believes is a German plot.
The book was published in 1903, and begins with the sort of airy yet florid style so popular at that time (for example The Education of Henry Adams), but as the plot becomes more serious, the writing becomes simpler and more direct, more down to earth. The result is a compelling story with plenty of action and adventure, as well as the usual joys of sailing tales.