Moonfleet is a cracking good children's adventure story with a moral. It begins with John Trenchard, aged 15, inspired by a story of buried treasure. He sets out to make his fortune by finding it.
John himself relates the tale, and most of the action takes place on the Dorset coast, in and around the fictional village of Moonfleet where he lives. The residents are poor but generally happy, as they make the most of what little they have. John becomes a surrogate son to Elzevier Block, a noble character in spite of his smuggling exploits. Dastardly Magistrate Maskew's betrays the villagers to the Revenue men. John's Aunt Jane, who raised him after the death of his parents, was "too strict and precise ever to make [him] love her", and Grace Maskew is rather too saintly to be credible. But the characters are not as important as the adventure which takes John far from the home he loves.
J Meade Falkner wrote the book in 1898 and set it in the mid-1700s, so the writing style is old-fashioned. Regardless, his descriptions of the sea are wonderfully vivid, and readers may experience feelings of giddiness and vertigo in the episode when John and Elzevier escape customs officers by climbing a cliff.
By the end of the book, young readers may have learned "'tis not wealth makes men", and that "a good woman's love is worth far more than all the gold and jewels of the world".