It is the summer of 1964 during the Far Eastern war euphemistically called ‘Confrontation’. A British Royal Marine patrol has orders to penetrate Indonesian Borneo to locate a river thought by Allied intelligence to be being used by the Indonesians to build up supplies before launching a major attack on Sarawak. Charged with this mission, Lieutenant Charles Kirton makes a most extraordinary discovery amid the dense mangrove swamps bordering river in Borneo. Not only does this discovery enable Kirton to fulfil his mission but it is quite coincidentally intensely personal and unpleasantly macabre. From this highly-charged opening sequence, the story flashes back a century to 1867, revealing the truth behind this strange event, when young Henry Kirton, Second Officer of the auxiliary steam-ship River Tay, is dumped ashore in Singapore, badly injured by a fall in the rigging of his ship. Woodman’s compelling tale has echoes of Joseph Conrad.
Captain Richard Martin Woodman, an English novelist and naval historian, retired in 1997 from a thirty-seven-year maritime career to write fulltime. The author of fourteen Nathaniel Drinkwater novels, two shorter series and several standalone novels, he also has written a range of factual books about the eighteenth century and World War II history.
NetGalley Review: 5 stars
Last updated on 14 Sep 2021
"I have read quite a few Richard Woodman books, both fiction, including his fourteen Nathaniel Drinkwater books, and non-fiction, including The Sea Warriors. A River in Borneo betrays his experience as a novelist, his knowledge as a master mariner, and the research of a historian. It is a curiously old fashioned book with more than a hint of Joseph Conrad, tracing the path of a young British merchant officer from a crippling accident to a hopeful respite to inevitable doom. The language is elegant and the book is highly readable. I did not find the framing scenes, set in the 1960’s and later, addictive and somewhat unlikely and melodramatic. That said, the book is well worth reading. Recommended. Thanks to NatGalley and the publisher for a copy in exchange for ab honest review."—Evan Ladoucer, consumer reviewer