Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
Books for Adults - Fiction
Port Royal, 1665. A place and time where privateers – actually pirates with dubious letters of marque – run rampant and the government – such as it is – needs their help to bring trade to the island and to protect the colony from the nefarious Spaniards who claim the Spanish Main as their own. Sir James Almont, the current royal Governor of Jamaica who suffers from gout, goes about the nasty business of hanging outright pirates on the same day an English ship puts into port. Aboard this merchantman are his new secretary, Robert Hacklett, and his wife, as well as a group of convict women sent to the Caribbean rather than placing them in jail. One of these women, Anne Sharpe, reveals information of import to Almont.
The governor enlists Captain Charles Hunter, a privateer, to lead an expedition to seize a treasure galleon. The only problem? She is currently at anchor at the Spanish outpost Matanceros, where an impregnable fortress guards the bay and any attempt at taking the galleon would be suicide. But Hunter prefers to think outside the box and, with the help of very special members of the community, he embarks on a plan to capture the treasure. As his crew make the necessary preparations, he has a brief interlude with Hacklett’s wife – a fact that will return to haunt him and possibly end his precious life.
The plan doesn’t go quite as planned, for within a short time, Cazalla, who commands the fortress at Matanceros, as well as at least one Spanish warship, captures Hunter and his men before they even get to their destination. A vile man who uses whatever means are necessary to gain the information he needs from whomever crosses his path, Cazalla underestimates Hunter, and the privateers launch an ingenious escape – but the Spaniard vows it will be the last time they does so.
The twists and turns to capture the treasure occupy the first half of the story. Then getting the booty back to Port Royal and eluding the dogged Spaniards add further complications, as does the unexpected reception Hunter and his men receive once they return home. A consummate storyteller, Crichton never once permits his readers a chance to rest – with each turn of the page the characters face another unforeseen predicament. While some readers might consider Hunter’s encounter with the kraken as “jumping the shark,” the episode does demonstrate the superstitious nature of seamen and the strange creatures they encounter as they explore unknown waters in search of treasure. Pirate Latitudes provides gritty realism of the time period, pirate life, and Port Royal without ever romanticizing any of it. The story also shows the importance of the privateers to the survival of the Jamaican colony. Readers will find the book a quick read, filled with adventure and populated with a host of true-to-life characters you either love to hate or hate to leave.
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