3.5 stars really,
This review is from: The Kaiser's Navigator (Peter Sparke Book 2) (Kindle Edition)
Scott Chapman has a nice writing style for a thriller writer. His work is pacey and easy to read. It carried me along with no trouble.
As with his first book 'The Templar Vault', there are two parallel stories: one set in the present day where the protagonist, Peter Sparke, has been hired to discover the wreckage of an Argentine research ship from the early 20th century and one set just before the First World War when a German naval vessel originally discovered the wreck. The modern story has a sketchy sub-plot involving the Falkland Islands, while the story about the German naval expedition follows the subsequent career of the navigator as he is captured in World War I and returns to Germany to see the start of what would turn into Nazism.
It's a good thing that Chapman is such a fluent writer, because this disguises rather a confused plot. The problem is that none of the characters really do very much. Peter Sparke has been made CEO of a German company that hires out what is essentially troubleshooting expertise. Much is made of his boredom organising the office furniture and that is because it is essentially quite boring. Chapman sexes things up with some high-tech computers but, such is the speed of development of technical wizardry, that these failed to impress me. Voice recognition and remote access are readily available to us all, so why should we be excited by them?
The navigator's experiences are more interesting, though the best bits have nothing to do with navigation. There is widespread ignorance in the UK about what exactly was going on in Germany after the end of the Great War. My own interest doesn't really start until the 1930s, so I can't swear to the accuracy of Chapman's narrative, but I found it convincing. As a bit of historical writing, it's excellent, but the navigator is rather a passive figure. This element of the book is quite short and might well work better as a non-fiction article.
In the end, Sparke's high tech expedition finds the wreck. Frankly, it was always going to, so there was no tension whatsoever there. The navigator dies in the great influenza pandemic. Then, abruptly, the story ends.
I'd like to give this 3.5 stars. The quality of the writing and the interest of some of the subject matter makes it better than merely OK. The lack of narrative thrust or any kind of tension in the plotting means that it doesn't really deserve four stars but, given the crudeness of five star rating systems, this is what it's going to have to get.