Castaways of the Flying Dutchman begins with the legend of the cursed ship the Flying Dutchman, which every sailor knows. When its captain, Vanderdecken, yelled oaths against his Maker, Heaven cursed the ship and all aboard it. But for one mute boy, Ben, and his dog, Ned, trapped on the Flying Dutchman by Vanderdecken and his evil crew, the Heaven turns the curse into a blessing: Ben is granted the ability to speak in any tongue, and to talk to his dog through telepathy.
Ben and Ned travel the world on their eternal mission to help people against hardship and tyranny, ever following the angel’s command. On one such journey they come across Chapelvale, a small village slated for destruction by Obadiah Smithers, a businessman who cares nothing for his neighbors, and Maud Bowe, the daughter of Smithers’s business partner.
Ned and Ben are determined to help the citizens of Chapelvale reclaim their homes, but the original deeds to the village were cleverly hidden years before. The two start on a quest to find the deeds and put Smithers in his place. Luckily, they have help: Mrs. Winn, the rightful owner of Chapelvale; Amy and Alex Somers, two children who are eager to help; and Jonathan Preston, old sailor and carpenter who is interested in Chapelvale’s history.
With these faithful companions at their side, the boy and dog search desperately for the deeds, but Smithers isn’t backing down without a fight: he sends his son, Wilf, after the team. But Maud doesn’t think this is enough: she hires a group of not-so-bright thugs to track down and “convince” Ben that the quest is a bad idea. Ben and Ned have enough courage to deal with them, but with only a week before the eviction date, do they have the time?
I highly recommend this book even if you don’t like ghost stories; after all, Castaways of the Flying Dutchman is the only ghost story that I have enjoyed reading. It is, in fact, one of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors. Ben and Ned’s adventures continue in The Angel’s Command and The Sea of Slaves, both of which also showcase Brian Jacques’s storytelling skill; he also wrote the remarkable Redwall series (link to Amazon), of which I’ve also reviewed the classic first book.