A Piratical Mystery

The Bloody Black Flag
Steve Goble
Seventh Street Books
Trade Paper $15.99
ebook $9.99

The Bloody Black Flag is Steve Goble’s debut novel, and it’s definitely worth a read. It’s a historical mystery set onboard a pirate vessel in 1722. I covered the historical adventure aspect of the novel in my review over at Adventures Fantastic. Since this is a mystery and crime blog, I’ll look at the mystery component of the novel here.

The story starts out with Spider John and his friend Ezra joining the pirate crew of the Plymouth Dream.  They had attempted to start an honest life on land, but they were recognized. Being wanted pirates, they decided to go back on the account and head to sea.

Spider and Ezra both had women in their families who were accused of witchcraft. Remember, this was 1722. The Salem witch trials were fresh in people’s minds. One of the crew recognizes Ezra and accuses him of being bad luck because of this. Later that night Ezra is found dead. At first glance it appears he had fallen and hit his head in a drunken stupor. The problem with this idea is that Spider knows Ezra didn’t drink. His friend was murdered.

Spider swears he’ll find the person who killed Ezra and return the favor.  First he’s got to stay alive himself. Because he was Ezra’s friend, the rest of the crew don’t have much to do with him. Spider was hired as the ship’s carpenter. He uses that position to investigate. As carpenter, he needs to regularly inspect the ship for rot, leaks, and things that need repair.

In the meantime, the situation onboard go from bad to worse. The captain has obtained a small object of great value he intends to sell to a French agent in Jamaica. On the way, the object disappears. This complicates Spider’s investigation. So does the British Navy vessel that keeps following them. So does the madness of some of the captain’s actions. Things aren’t easy for Spider.

The Bloody Black Flag is a nearly seamless blend of whodunit and piratical adventure.  There is no shortage of suspects. A few of the pirates, like Spider John, were honest men who were pressed into service when their ships were captured. But most are cruel, profane cutthroats. The noble pirate of Hollywood is absent here. That’s a good thing.

The mystery is well-constructed. The clues were all there. Yes, I missed some. When you read this one, pay attention to the details.

I preordered this book. I’ll preorder the next one in the series as well. I thoroughly enjoyed both the pirates and the mystery in The Bloody Black Flag.  So will you. Check it out.

Seventh Street Books has been putting out some really good and creative mysteries for the last five years and wracked up an impressive number of award nominations (and wins) in that short time. Time constraints have prevented me from keeping up with all their titles. The Bloody Black Flag is a great place to discover what a fantastic line of mysteries they have.

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