Sailing thrillers

As you have probably worked out by now, the sea is one of the ruling passions of my life. While cruising and racing in boats ranging from dinghies to megayachts, I noticed that they have a kind of pressure-cooking effect on the emotions. It might be the trivial fury of someone whose last chocolate biscuit has been stolen when she is two thousand miles from the nearest shop. It might be the thwarted ambition of a man who has invested millions in a giant yacht, and has been cheated in a race. Or it might be the usual levers – greed, jealousy and spite – beefed up when surrounded by water.

So I wrote a series of sailing thrillers, set in and around the fishing village of Pulteney, on the southwest coast of England. Pulteney is a village once inhabited by fishermen, since bought up by bankers. It is the place you keep your boat for the winter, probably to have it refitted under the benevolent guidance of Charlie Agutter, local yacht designer, whisky drinker, and occasional detective. Pulteney is a place where you meet people who will be the other side of the world next week, and hear their stories. The object of these books is to give you all the thrills of yachting with none of the excess moisture, and to keep your heart in your mouth long past your bedtime.

Dead Reckoning
People lose their cool on boats. I had always wondered whether this ever went as far as murder. In this, the first of the Pulteney books, I decided to make it happen..

Charlie Agutter has designed a revolutionary boat. Then his brother is killed sailing one, and the design is blamed. Griefstruck Charlie knows better. With the Captain’s Cup races approaching and fortunes hanging in the balance, Charlie suspects sabotage. He needs to find out who has done it, to win back his good name, his livelihood, and to win the race. Oh, and to save his sister-in-law’s life…

“Slick, readable, racy and punchy – an outstanding thriller”

Sunday Express

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Blood Orange
Multihulls are the fastest things on water. After a trip across channel in a racing catamaran that left me deeply excited but with two black eyes from green water coming across the foredeck at thirty knots, it was obvious that I had to write a catamaran book.

French multihull sailors are the Formula One drivers of the sea, with the nerve, the power, and the temperament. They do not take kindly to British sailors horning in on their circuit. So when a man is washed off the trimaran Street Express in an Irish anchorage, the police know where to look. But appearances can be deceptive….

“Sam Llewellyn sends the salt spray flying”
Sunday Express

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Death Roll
I once ran the day shift in a bar in Spain’s Costa del Sol. Here I met two brothers from East London, one of whom could knock out a donkey with his bare fist, and the other of whom did stuff that I cannot mention, except to say it was very illegal, indeed. There are a lot of boats there, huge amounts of money, and not much extradition.. The stories just fall into your lap.

When an elderly boatyard owner suddenly decides to go visiting on Spain’s Costa del Crime, there are those who say it is perfectly natural. His wife is not among them. She says it is right out of character, and asks her friend Martin Devereux, a twelve-meter sailor full of nothing but bad attitude, to investigate. And very soon after that, Martin is wishing he had never started….

“An immaculately timed, tense adventure”
Mail on Sunday

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Deadeye
The west coast of Scotland is Europe’s finest and loneliest cruising ground. The same year I went there for the first time, I met a fisherman who had discovered the secret of the steady income, so much sought after by fishermen.. When he occasionally trawled up a WWII naval mine in his nets, he received big-scale compensation for lost fishing time. So in his shed he had started a collection of these mines, rusty, lethal, and sweating nitroglycerine, for use on slow fishing days. You will understand that this was too hot to ignore.

What happens when a divorce lawyer sailing in the North of Scotland picks up a man who has fallen overboard from a ship in the middle of the night? For one thing, nobody thanks him. For another, his life seems to be in danger. But then it turns out that there is a lot more than his life at stake. Things like unexploded mines, and toxic waste, and the his ex-wife, and his future with the woman he loves….

“A brilliantly conceived and executed thriller, with stunning set pieces…. written with unflagging pace and elegance”
Literary Review

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Blood Knot
Autumn in the Archipelago between Stockholm and Turku in the Baltic. Millions of birds are migrating,, elks swim among the thousands of islands, and the Finns are picking mushrooms, some of which are not toxic. It is a beautiful, mysterious place to sail.

The Tall Ships are gathered at Chatham, in the Thames Estuary, for their annual race. Vixen, owned by ex war correspondent Bill Tyrrell, has eight young offenders on board, for the good of their souls. In the middle of the celebrations, they discover a ninth person – a dead Russian, wrapped round the propellor. There is plenty of explaining to do. But nobody is listening to Tyrrell’s explanations, particularly when his past starts messing up the present…

“The best seaborne thriller in many a tide”

Daily Mail

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Riptide
La Rochelle is a lovable town, and a great relief to find at the end of a lumpy voyage across the Bay of Biscay. But behind its beauty is something harder. It was besieged by Cardinal Richelieu during the Huguenot era.. And its fortifications, beautifully intact, still hint at a capacity for violence.

Nobody sails like the French – the speed, the style, the pride, the seamanship. And, as Mick Savage, boatbuilder, is about to discover, the violence. Because someone out there seems to have taken against Mick. And his friend Thibault Ledoux owes money to people it is not wise to owe money to, and it looks as if he may wind up dead. The sexy, complicated world of La Rochelle’s big-time sailors is dangerous as hell. And not only because of the weather in the Bay of Biscay.

“For excitement, elegance and sheer virtuosity, Llewellyn’s books sail rings round the competition” Literary Review

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Clawhammer
Maine does fog like nowhere else in the world. The sea is green and icy cold, full of whales, bursting on marble beaches. Inside the fog lurks a culture that is ancient and insular and sometimes hostile – an ideal background for weirdness and mayhem.

When someone kills your sister and her country-and-western singer boyfriend in Ethiopia, you might think that it is an ending. But for George Devis, it is a beginning – of a sequence of events that starts with a murder in a transatlantic race, and leads up the eastern seaboard of America and into an international conspiracy. It is a conspiracy that it would be nice to walk away from. But once you have found out it exists, it is too late to walk away…

“This rare treat should send readers in search of Llewellyn’s earlier novels”
American Bookseller

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Maelstrom
I have always been a keen collector of whirlpools – the Old Sow in Eastport, Maine, the Corryvreckan off the Isle of Jura, and most of all the Maelstrom in the Lofoten Islands, immortalised by Edgar Allen Poe (who never saw it) I am also disgusted by Norway’s whaling policies, an exploitation of natural resources that dates from an earlier, more fascistic age. These two things together lie at the root of this book.
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Seventy-eight-year-old Ernie Johnson, scrap dealer, Spanish Civil War veteran and dyed-in-the wool leftie, sails towards Ireland in his rustbucket freighter Worker’s Paradise. When Customs searches the ship, they find a huge arms cache. Ernie says he has been framed, but he would, wouldn’t he? The only person who believes his innocence is his nephew, Fred Hope. And Fred is no saint himself, having a dodgy past in ecoterrorism and other blood sports. But Fred investigates. And finds himself way over his head in some lethal business. Including the Russian mafia, stolen art treasures, whale poachers, and political ghosts from the Fascist past. Oh, and the North Sea…

“An ingenious story, well written and so detailed in its description of the Norwegian Sea that you can feel the chill in your bones”
Mail on Sunday

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© 2017 Sam Llewellyn