Dead Reckoning by M. Ray & T. Vannier

Dead Reckoning (a great title) is a novella-length story about an incredible and terrible accident that occurred off the California coast in September 1923 involving several Clemson-class naval destroyers.

I picked up this book because I like historical fiction, and I like stories set at sea. It’s also always great to get to read about forgotten historical events.

Like most historical fiction, this book draws on both historical figures (Captain Watson, Dooman, Pearson) mixed in with some fictional elements. While the story began perhaps a touch slow, I was enthralled and invested with the characters from the get-go, and once the ships are underway, the pace rapidly accelerated to near thriller- or suspense- fiction levels. One element I think the authors used to great effect in this novella was short sections to give the book’s latter half (which details the actual accident) a staccato, breathless, and almost in-the-moment feel.

Although this is a short work, the writing is top-notch (reading, prose-wise, it read perhaps a bit more like an extremely well-written historical chronicle versus historical fiction), and while I don’t know much about the history behind the accident, the story seemed incredibly well-research in terms of its details. Dialogue seemed spot-on for the period, and while never maudlin or overdrawn, this little book also packed a real emotional punch.

Historical fiction at its finest and definitely one of the better books I’ve read this year. I’m only sorry the book was so short. I would not only read another book by these authors, I would seek one out.

I received a free review copy of this novel as an ebook but no other compensation, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.