by James Grant Goldin
Set in the Caribbean in the early eighteenth century, The Further Exploits of the Pirate Queens, takes the reader back on the high seas with Anne Bonny, Mary Read, and Captain John Rackham “Calico Jack” at the helm of the Tigress.
However, what Calico Jack doesn’t realize is that Anne has been keeping a secret from him, a secret named Kate who is nearly one and living in Cuba. Anne is determined to be there for Kate’s first birthday, and nothing or no one on land or sea will stop her…
The Further Exploits of the Pirate Queens is an absolute riot written by an accomplished author who clearly has a lot of fun producing what is, a deceptively clever and well-written novel full of ingenious little plot twists and asides, that, consequently, is also an awful lot of fun for the reader.
The novel is dialogue rich, full of quick-fire authentic exchanges that are both amusing, intriguing, and entirely convincing. Goldin has structured the plot well, it’s relatively simple, and fast-moving, branching off just before halfway with Anne and Mary having a separate sub-plot to the rest of the Tigress.
The other running tangent involving Calico Jack and Notch the shark was nicely played, slightly farcical but also having the echo of an allegory about it. Indeed, the story gives the reader exactly what they want but with a few doubts to drive momentum and spike curiosity.
The narrative bounces along at a jaunty pace and is glossed with whip-smart and bawdy humor. However, Goldin ensures that the whole book never tips over into pantomime, threading and consolidating the plot and players with a wealth of sea-faring and piratical detail.
Indeed, Goldin’s richly detailed nautical and historical knowledge is extensive and confidently woven through the plot. Although the novel is rip-roaringly entertaining, it’s also very interesting and absorbing in terms of the period. There is a non-fictional foundation to some of the characters, and Goldin has beautifully blended fact with imagination.
Further, the settings, especially those chapters set in Cuba, are wonderfully realized. Vibrant and immersive, the reader is completely transported to the heat and sand of the Caribbean as well as sailing alongside Calico Jack on its surrounding waters.
All of the characters, even minor ones, are individual, with little quirks and engaging foibles. There is a real sense of not only the closeness and trust between Anne and Mary but also their personality differences. Mary’s maturity is subtly expressed in a more thoughtful, measured attitude toward events whereas Anne has an impatient, headstrong nature.
The majority of the cast are, despite the life and death scrapes they get involved in, fairly laidback, easy come, easy go as probably befits the life they lived during that time. However, the relationship between Calico Jack and Anne hints at deeper complexity and unspoken emotion that makes some of their exchanges weighted with meaning and poignancy.
The Further Exploits of the Pirate Queens is a rambunctious rollick of a read, full of swashbuckling action, uproarious adventure, and historical insight. Highly recommended.