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Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX  76244-0425


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Books for Adults - Fiction

Floating Gold                The Unfortunate Isles

Cover Art: Unfortunate Isles
The Unfortunate Isles
By M. C. Muir
Grindelwald, 2014, ISBN 9780992365004, £2.50 / $2.99
Also available in print formats

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Still grieving for his dear friend, who succumbed to the plague, Captain Oliver Quintrell keeps to his cabin and leaves First Lieutenant Simon Parry to see to the running of the ship as they depart Gibraltar at the end of 1804. All that changes when Oliver spies a woman dumping a bucket over the wrong side of the ship during a storm. He demands an explanation from Simon, who explains that she and another woman, as well as a ten-year-old orphan, are aboard because HMS Perpetual needed a carpenter, and the only way he would sign aboard in Gibraltar was if the women and child could come, too. There is nothing Oliver can do about the situation at present, but as soon as they reach Ponta Delgada, where they will take on supplies before proceeding to New South Wales, the women must go shore and find their own way back to England.

Quarantined at Gibraltar for three months because of the plague, the 32-gun naval frigate is sluggish and in need of careening. When he spies unfamiliar sails paralleling their course, Oliver fears they might belong to pirates or Spanish ships who have heard about the four chests of coins hidden below deck. Since Perpetual can’t outrun any vessel, he makes for Santa Maria, an island where they can careen the frigate before taking on stores. While he directs operations, he sends his second lieutenant and two boys off in search of the fishing village located on the island. Mr. Tully and the boys never reach the village; instead, they stumble upon a gallows with six fresh corpses.

Needing answers, Oliver takes a party to the village while leaving Lieutenant Parry in charge of the careening. While the frigate is vulnerable, a Danish ship sails into the bay. But she’s flying false colors and before long, Parry and the Perpetuals find themselves facing the vicious pirate captain, who hanged the six fishermen, and his men. Frederik Johannes van Zetten needs to replenish the crew of San Nicola since half of the pirates have died of scurvy. He also needs supplies, but discovers the British have none. So he will sail to Ponta Delgada to purchase them, and during his absence, the Perpetuals must finish the work on the frigate and have her reloaded and ready to make sail, for he intends to take her as a prize. To make certain they obey him and don’t launch a surprise attack, he takes Parry, two midshipmen, and half of the British sailors aboard the San Nicola.

While away from his ship, Oliver learns the pirates demanded the villagers turn over all their young men. But they left years ago for a better life elsewhere – a fact van Zetten refuses to believe, and he hangs six old men and warns the women that more will die if they don’t turn over the young men when he returns. That deadline is the next day. At first, Oliver can’t help them, but when he hears what has happened to his crew, he engineers a desperate plan to reclaim his crew, keep his frigate, save the village, and seize the pirates and their ship. But after depositing his prisoners with the authorities, who seem reluctant to deal with the pirates, he has the uneasy feeling he hasn’t seen the last of van Zetten.

The Unfortunate Isles opens as, once again, Europe teeters on the brink of war because of the ambitions of Emperor Napoleon. Readers who begin the Under Admiralty Orders – The Oliver Quintrell series with this fourth book, may feel a tad disoriented at first, but that feeling quickly dissipates once Oliver comes out of his blue funk upon seeing what must be an apparition, a woman on board his ship. Muir has crafted this scene so well that you can almost hear and sense the astonishment and anger radiating from and within him. From there onward, the action picks up and she keeps you on the edge of your seat until the last page is turned. Van Zetten is as despicable a pirate as the sadistic buccaneer l’Olonnais, and her portrayal of him makes him an arch-pirate, one you wouldn’t ever want to cross paths with in real life. Throughout the story, you feel as if you are on the Perpetual, standing alongside Oliver and his crew as their adventures mirror a wave-tossed sea. Whether you’re a fan of naval fiction or pirate tales, The Unfortunate Isles will more than sate your appetite. If you’re new to the series, you might just want to step back in time to enjoy the earlier books, too.


Review Copyrighted ©2015 Cindy Vallar
 
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Cover Art: Floating Gold
Floating Gold
By Margaret Muir
Robert Hale, 2010, ISBN 978-0-7090-9051-9, £18.99

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Captain Oliver Quintrell has recovered from his war wounds and desperately wants a new ship, but with the Royal Navy downsizing following the declaration of peace between the European nations, that is unlikely to happen. As he observes a convoy of merchant ships from the beach on the Isle of Wight, his manservant brings news that he’s been called to London, much to the dismay of Oliver’s wife. But duty calls and he goes to Whitehall, where he receives orders shrouded in secrecy.
 
His new post is the thirty-eight-gun frigate, and he and his crew are to accompany a convoy to Madeira. He is not, however, to engage any enemy. Nor is he in command of the convoy, which causes problems when the commodore’s orders directly conflict with those from the Admiralty. Once they arrive at Madeira, he receives additional orders – secret ones that he is not to open until his ship reaches the fifteenth parallel.
 
Breaking in a new crew and not knowing much about the officers who serve under him, Quintrell runs a tight ship. Before they reach their destination, they acquire additional and unexpected hands – Will Ethridge and several others. Will’s knowledge of shipbuilding and carpentry earn him a spot as mate to Chippy, the ship’s carpenter.  When Chippy disappears after a stop in Brazil and two of the unexpected recruits go missing, Will is the first to sound the alarm, but there is little Quintrell can do.
 
The journey to their final destination, a secret place that may or may not exist, is fraught with danger – weather, a leak that was caused on purpose, and others who seek the same treasure as England. Will they survive? Will they find what the Admiralty needs? Will they return safely home?
 
Muir crafts a spellbinding nautical tale that captures the reader’s attention and never releases it until the final page is turned. Her research and attention to detail are impeccable and her experience as a mariner enhances the adventure. Floating Gold whisks readers back to the heyday of the British navy and while the astounding voyage never actually happened, readers find themselves living the life of a sailor and witnessing the awesome beauty and dangers of Deception Island and sailing the seas on a wooden ship in days of yore.

Review Copyrighted ©2010 Cindy Vallar
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