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The Bloody Black Flag
Spider John Mysteries – Book I
Steve Goble

Seventh Street Books (Penguin Random House)
12 September 2017/ ASIN: B01NAKK8QO

Reviewed by  Rachel A Hyde


1722: Spider John used to work on a whaler but after it was boarded by pirates he had no choice but to sign articles and become a pirate too. Now he and his friend Ezra have joined another such vessel The Plymouth Dream, with its unstable and volatile captain and ruthless crew. Nobody seems friendly and not long after their arrival Ezra is found dead. As he drank so little, surely he cannot truly have been drunk and fallen? It is up to Spider to discover the murderer and avenge his friend.

I am always looking for novels that avoid the well-trodden path and deliver something fresh and new and this book fits the bill. A combination of thrilling seafaring yarn and historical mystery set just after the heyday of pirates, it gives a warts-and-all look at what life “on the account” might have been like. Violent, unpredictable and often short, the escape it offered from the discipline of the navy, the horrors of slavery or the drudgery of many other careers caused it to be dubbed “the sweet trade.” Spider is not keen on the life however, and thus the novel has a protagonist the reader can empathize with. In true classic whodunit style, having a ship as the venue for murder makes it akin to the old house party setting; a set number of suspects who all have motives. This is a story where anybody could be guilty, but there is plenty going on in this taut tale besides sleuthing. Battles at sea include a tussle with another pirate ship and the inevitable naval vessel intent on their capture, and this is also clearly the first book in a planned series. I do hope so, as anybody who likes mysteries, sea stories and adventures in general ought to enjoy this. Highly recommended.

Reviews of other titles in this series

The Bloody Black Flag - Book 1
The Devil’s Wind - Book 2


Reviewed 2017