Hammond Innes ruled the literary world for many years as the master story teller. He brought modernity and technology to bear on the thrillers and adventure novels he wrote. Among the great thrillers which he turned out in the sixties and seventies, was North Star.
The title refers to an oil rig in the North Sea, which is as unpredictable and hostile as anywhere in the world, especially when the raging seas and gale force winds contrive to destroy all before them. As if the natural elements weren’t enough to contend with, evil and malicious intent is also abroad, and North Star has plenty of twists and turns to make it an intriguing and gripping read. Most of the action is set on and around the Shetland Islands, way up north of Scotland, and firmly in the bitter artic air stream. The sea faring terms and fisherman’s lore is a pleasant touch, and the story has plenty of salty old fishermen and hard rugged tool pushers working the rigs. The fact that the drama unfolding on the high seas on board the North Star drilling platform all takes place in an era before mobile telephone or even inmarsat communications existed all helps to build tension. Radio telephones were unreliable and short ranged at best, and even oil rigs and their support ships had to rely solely on VHF transmissions.
Innes is most comfortable when narrating a story about the sea. His vast knowledge and understanding of all things nautical shines through in this story. The characters he describes are strong minded island people, or hard iron willed sea faring folk, who have lived off the sea and survived hardships all of there lives. Most importantly of all is the ever cruel sea.
Throughout the story Innes never lets the reader forget that the raging powerful waves that rule the North Sea are never more than a change in the weather away, and with them death and destruction.