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Nick of Time    by Ted Bell order for
Nick of Time
by Ted Bell
Order:  USA  Can
Griffin, 2008 (2000)
Hardcover, Paperback, CD
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Take Treasure Island (complete with obstreperous parrot), toss in the Nazis just prior to World War II - and with the obligatory evil doctor - plus a foray back to Admiral Nelson's era, and kidnappers who snatch their victims through time, and you have Ted Bell's peripatetic Nick of Time. It's an exciting romp through time and history that also looks hard at what it takes to be a hero - the author quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson at the beginning, saying 'A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer.'

Nick of Time stars twelve-year-old Nick McIver, his dog Jip, and his six-year-old sister Kate, whose natural dramatic talent will make all the difference in her own adventure. They live with their parents in a functional lighthouse on Greybeard Island, smallest of the lovely Channel Islands. It's 1939 and the English government has its collective head deeply buried in the sand, ignoring the growing build-up of Hitler's war machine. Nick and Katie aid their father Angus to secretly spy on Nazi maritime activity, sending reports to Winston Churchill. Nick is a resolute seaman, who has charted the dangerous reefs around the islands, and hero worships 'Nelson the Strong, Nelson the Brave, Nelson the Lord of the Sea'.

The action begins when Nick and Kate find a sea chest belonging to the ancestor for whom Nick was named. It proves a dangerous discovery. After Kate mentions their find to two piratical, threatening strangers at the inn - Billy Blood and Snake Eye - Blood kidnaps Jip, offering to exchange Nick's dog for the chest. The siblings seek help from their friend Gunner, the innkeeper. After a tow from a Nazi super-sub, the trio (along with Gunner's cat Horatio) make their way to Hawke Castle, where they tell all to Lord Hawke, a modern Sherlock Holmes, and his friend Commander Hobbes, a brilliant Royal Navy weapons designer. Of course, these two sign on as well - they start by opening the chest, which holds a time travel device.

Soon, Nick, Gunner and Lord Hawke head back to Nick's ancestor's ship, H.M.S. Merlin in the year 1805, while Hobbes and Katie set off in his launch Thor to deliver urgent reports to the mainland. Both groups are involved in sea battles (in different eras). Katie's quick wits save Hobbes' life from Nazis, while Nick faces nonstop thrills and chills, learns to 'laugh in the very face of danger', saves the day more than once, and ultimately gets to meet his own hero. Nick of Time is an engrossing middle school read, recommended for reluctant readers.

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