Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
Books for Adults - Fiction
All Spider John Rush wants is to see his wife and child in Nantucket, but fate always draws him back to the sea and piracy. Such is the case when he and his friend Ezra reach Boston. To evade the law, they must accept an offer to join Captain William Barlow’s Plymouth Dream. These pirates need of able mariners like Ezra, but they especially prize John’s carpentry skills. Although old hands with the sweet trade, joining a band already formed means he and Ezra are outsiders. Further alienating them from the others is a tattooed man, who knows the blood of a witch runs through Ezra’s veins. Having survived the sinking of a ship on her maiden voyage makes him an even greater pariah.
Unlike other pirate ships, Captain Barlow runs Plymouth Dream with an iron fist. He’s not opposed to listening to others, but he and only he makes the decisions. He puts no store in superstitious drivel, so as long as Spider and Ezra do what is expected, they are welcome aboard his ship.
Soon after they depart New England waters, Spider John finds Ezra dead. The consensus is that his death is the result of over-imbibing and melancholy. John knows there is nothing accidental or suicidal about his friend’s demise, but aboard a ship of cutthroats, only a fool starts slinging accusations of murder around. Spider vows to find the killer and make him pay. Solving the crime with only two clues – knowing the killing device was made from the wood of an apple tree and the silver flask left to disguise the death – further complicates his task, especially since he must find the killer before they reach their destination. To help him in his search, he enlists the help of Hob, the young cabin boy who goes everywhere on the ship without raising undue attention. The more they hunt, the more names are added to the suspect list. As if the fates are amused by Spider’s fruitless investigation, they spice it up with a phantom frigate that doggedly pursues the Plymouth Dream and the theft of a priceless object that Barlow intended to sell to a mysterious Frenchman.
The Bloody Black Flag is the first tale in the Spider John Mystery series. Spider is more a thinker, than a man of brawn and action, although readers who prefer ship chases, boarding prey, and mutinies will find those woven into the warp and weft of this tapestry. The wide variety of characters makes for an interesting cast, all of whom are running away or hiding from something. Figuring out which is the murderer will keep readers guessing until the end, and it may be as surprising to them as it is to Spider. Goble expertly weaves pirate lore into this historical mystery and his gift of words easily transports us back to October 1722 and the deck of the Plymouth Dream.
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