David Donachie,
The Privateersman Mysteries
No. 2, The Dying Trade

(Macmillan, 1993; McBooks, 2001)

Harry Ludlow and his brother James are still guests of the British navy when The Dying Trade, the second book in The Privateersman Mysteries series, begins. Lacking a ship and crew, he is heading for the neutral port of Genoa to seek both.

He also needs exemptions from the navy that would prevent ambitious navy captains from pressing his crew, once he finds one. Admiral Hood, a family friend, has promised the necessary paperwork if Ludlow is able to solve the mystery of a murdered officer in that crime-ridden city.

But, unlike the murder-mystery in The Devil's Own Luck, the murder in question here does not dominate the plot. Instead, Ludlow devotes much more attention to the political situation in Genoa, which involves city officials, military leaders and, more dire, a cabal of privateers operating from the port who seem to be doing much better than their circumstances should allow.

Then there's the French sloop of war lurking in the harbor, and the gang of homicidal, black-clad thugs who keep making Ludlow's life such a pain.

It's another good book from David Donachie, a talented writer in this specialized field. There is some dramatic action at sea, too, including one particularly climactic encounter with heartbreaking results, as well as a tempting Genoese woman, a blind count with a love for sailing, a little art appreciation, some high-stakes banking and, ick, rats.

Oh, right, and there's still that murder to solve. I can pretty much guarantee you won't see the end coming.

book review by
Tom Knapp

5 April 2014

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