Dorset, 1758: 15-year-old John Trenchard, raised by his pious aunt, falls in with smugglers and goes from bad to worse, from Dorset to Carisbrooke (Isle of Wight) and on to the Hague and slavery.
There are shipwrecks, smuggling, cheating Jews (Moonfleet was published in 1898, and is very much a novel of its time), plenty of local colour and period detail, and a full set of adventuresome ingredients, from the ghost of a Civil War colonel to a cryptic message hidden in a tomb. Every detail, from the going-price for a contraband matchlock to the colloquial name for strong spirit, rings true: the sheer noise of a shipwreck on a shingle beach is memorably evoked. The novel is occasionally heavy-handed in its Message: friendship is a priceless treasure and should not be betrayed; love triumphs over all; virtue wins in the end, and repentance means salvation. Elziver, one of the protagonists, is a little too good to be true: and John could do with a bit more guilt. But, overall, a pacy adventure story and a light, entertaining, melodramatic read.
This book (I have a Puffin edition from the early 1970s) is 'recommended for children of 9 and above, especially boys'. It's good sturdy competent prose, full of adventure, slightly sub-Stevenson but a well-plotted read, even if the pacing would be rather slow for today's readers.