Monday, April 19, 2021

The Dying Trade

The Dying Trade
by David Donachie
Recommended Ages: 14+

The brothers Ludlow, Harry and James, have survived the loss of their privateer schooner and crew, solved a murder mystery and reunited with a sort of adopted uncle who happens to be the Royal Navy admiral in charge of the Mediterranean fleet. It's 1794, there's a war on, and privateers and Navy men generally aren't on good terms with each other because they have to compete for a limited number of prizes. Nevertheless, Adm. Howe sends them ashore in Genoa with a hint that he'll consider helping Harry continue his privateering career, provided that Harry helps him solve the grisly murder of a Navy captain found strangled in the city's streets.

Harry and James don't get very far ashore before someone tries to kill them, too. In no time at all, they find themselves entangled in a complex weave of villainous conspiracies, from a squadron of privateersmen who suspiciously don't bring any prizes ashore to a French warship that somehow has the liberty of a port that is supposed to be allied with Britain. While Harry shops for a new vessel and a crew to sail it, James struggles in vain to check his brother's tendency to poke his nose into other people's business – like a sickly Italian count and his too-beautiful-to-be-believed wife, a ship's captain who everyone knows is not sailor and whose second-in-command is a known thief, a corrupt port admiral, an inkeeper who fleeces sailors of their hard-won prize money, and another captain with whom Harry soon shares a mutual death grudge.

Half murder mystery, half naval adventure, it starts to look like it's all going to unfold on shore, but then there do come some pretty exciting sea battles – all while Harry probes deeper and deeper into some disturbingly evil doings. There's combats on board a mostly abandoned ship, exchanges of gunfire between ships, fiendish traps, and a particularly nasty episode in which a man must fight for dear life against a bunch of rats. And in case it isn't already clear that an Adult Content Advisory is in order, there's also some pretty graphic nookie in this novel.

You'll go from wishing you were Harry Ludlow to being glad you aren't in only a couple of pages. You'll be brought to the edge of your seat, even if you're lying down, during several thrilling, suspenseful and shocking passages. And two books into your cruise with David Donachie's Privateersman Mysteries, you'll be on board for the next book, A Hanging Matter.

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