While Patrick Devlin might lack the comic dimension of Jack Sparrow, he does exhibit a similar swashbuckling (there’s no way to avoid that word) and to some extent charming persona—and of course the story, England-native Keating’s debut, involves buried treasure, daring raids and fights between gnarly pirates.

The action unfolds during the Golden Age of Piracy, the early 18th century. Devlin has only recently become a pirate, a career path necessitated by the sinking of a ship on which he’d been the captain’s servant. He possesses a valuable skill, much in demand, for he has mastered the art of navigation. At a beach on the west coast of Africa he finds himself confronting the demise of Philippe Ducos, killed by a bullet to the brain courtesy of Fletcher, an English pirate. 

Before his death, however, the “babbling Frog” had revealed a secret involving hidden gold—and because Devlin is the only one who understands French, he keeps this knowledge hidden. Through a combination of ruthlessness, savvy and a strong will to survive, Devlin eventually becomes captain of the pirate ship and ironically finds himself being pursued by John Coxon, his old master. Keating takes us adroitly through a series of Caribbean adventures, for Devlin is at times imprisoned, attacked or otherwise put in the way of various Portuguese government officials and Dutch and French soldiers. (The author even throws in an encounter with Edward Teach, the notorious Blackbeard.) 

While life both on ship and on land is nasty, brutish and (for some) short, it’s also exhilarating. Devlin reduces life to its essence, for at one point he explains to a Dutch crew that he has “only four rules…Eat well, drink well, fight well and swear to leave me when you have a thousand pounds to your own account.” It’s piracy as the hedonistic American dream.

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