Tuesday, July 24, 2012
This past weekend I was in the mood for something light and fun to read but I had nothing on my own bookshelves that fit the bill so I went to my neighbours' house to raid theirs. With my neighbour's recommendation I came away with Flying Dutch by Tom Holt which looked like it would suit nicely. Plus a comment on the cover comparing the book to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy helped seal the deal.
Jane Doland's uneventful life as an accountant for the National Lombard Bank gets a jolt when she comes across a 400 year old insurance policy that has yet to be paid out. Stranger yet, it appears that the owner of the policy is still alive and that the world's economic stability depends on the bank buying his policy back. Curious as to who this long-living policy owner could possibly be Jane sets out to track him down and in the process gets roped into the biggest adventure of her life, largely thanks to her poor sense of smell.
Captain Julius Vanderdecker and his crew have been sailing the world's oceans for the past 400 years all because of a drunken mistake that led them to drink an immorality elixir that they thought was beer. Immortality might not be so bad if they weren't all forced to remain permanently on the ship due to the elixir's side-effect, an unbearable smell that makes it impossible for them to be around other people. But every seven years the smell subsides for a month allowing the captain and crew to enjoy a brief stint on land before being forced back on their ship.
But the sudden hope that there may be a cure for the smell has Captain Vanderdecker searching of the elixir's creator, which brings him in contact with a very determined accountant. Also mixed into the story are secret conspiracies, a frustrated journalist in search of a scoop and an immortal cat.
The story is based on the legend of the Flying Dutchman, or perhaps on the opera, The Flying Dutchman, which is based on the legend. Truthfully I don't know much about either of them so I can't say how they compare to this story by Holt.
There were a lot of characters, which got to be a bit confusing, and I did feel like the story could have benefited by paring the cast down somewhat. The romance was also rushed as the two characters appear to fall in-love after only having known each other for about a day. But these seem to be regular characteristics of humorous fantasy, or at least of the books that I've read, so I wasn't particularly surprised.
I also didn't get a lot of the jokes but I suspect this is because I'm not that familiar with British culture and humour (I had once watched an episode of some British TV show and I didn't get any of the jokes then either).
Reading Flying Dutch was an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours even though it was no Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (now that book is funny, even if you're American). But it was a fun, lighthearted read that suited my mood and introduced me to the legend of the Flying Dutchman, which I'm now curious to find out more about.