Book Review: Drake’s Bay by T. A. Roberts

By Clark Isaacs, Clark’s Eye on Books

T. A. Roberts is a mystery writer who has been held in esteem by his colleagues in the Mystery Writers of America when they made him a finalist for the prestigious Edgar Award in 1972 and 1989 “Beyond Saru” and “Heart of the Dog.” Now, “Drake’s Bay,” is being released in April and it too is well-contrived to keep you guessing throughout.

Living aboard a wooden sailing vessel is not unique for a main character. Travis McGee did his investigating from a setting on a houseboat and appeared in 21 paperback novels penned by John D. MacDonald. Roberts has created Ethan Storey as his sleuth living in the San Francisco bay area.

What makes this book stand out from the rest of the fleet is the excellent prose. Descriptive language which heightens many sensations is on every page. When taking courses in composition, each student strives for that ultimate set of words that will capture the reader’s senses. Ethan Storey consistently tells his story in graphic detail so you can easily picture where he has been and where he is going.

A scholarly professor, Ethan Storey and his girlfriend, lead the search for the log books of Sir Francis Drake’s travels through the Northwest Passage. An influential California family with ties to Europe tries to prevent this discovery from happening and is driven by greed to do all in their power to disrupt Storey’s life. They hire people who work undercover and spy upon Storey’s progress by posing as helpers when they are actually plotting against him.

A good mystery novel will not allow you to second-guess what is happening next. T. A. Roberts achieves this chapter after chapter. Just when you think you know what the result of an encounter will be, suddenly, it is as if the main sail has shifted in the wind and you are now tacking (going) in a different direction. This book centers on sailboat language and jargon related to it. However, do not despair, explanations are liberally given and the reader subconsciously receives a sailing education.

‘Indiana Jones’ would have been an idyllic substitute for Ethan Storey. The same swashbuckling attitude is from a 60 something-year-old with a PhD flair and makes this novel most entertaining.

T. A. Roberts is a very talented writer and leaves his audience wanting more reading material from him. Be prepared to spend a few hours enjoying this delightfully woven sea adventure in San Francisco Bay whilst you are swept away on sea and land. Mates, you will climb on board and take the voyage to enjoyment.

Drake’s Bay

Author: T. A. Roberts

ISBN: 157962197X, Pages: 240, $28.00 Publication Date: April 2010, Cloth, Mystery, Published by: The Permanent Press

Clark Isaacs is an accomplished book critic who is published in local newspapers and national book review lists. Contact Clark through his website at or through NewsBlaze.