L.A. Meyer,
Rapture of the Deep
(Harcourt, 2009)

It was a different time, I know. Yet I cringed every time Jacky Faber, the heroine of L.A. Meyer's long-running series of adventure tales set in the early 1800s, tortured a rooster.

Jacky, who typically shows a lot of compassion for animals, shows no compunction against slicing off her rooster's spurs, replacing them with metal barbs and setting him to rend and kill other roosters in a Havana arena. It seems out of character for the Jacky I've come to know and love over the previous six novels in the series, and it certainly soured the overall experience of this latest adventure.

There are other problems, too. Culturally sensitive readers might be taken aback by the introduction of a new character, Aunt Jemimah, a very stereotypical black slave whom Jacky buys in a South Carolina slave market, then frees and hires to cook aboard her ship. Historically sensitive readers might wonder to learn that Jacky is responsible for inventing CPR, sterilized medical instruments, flippers and the bikini. Cinema buffs might blanch at the appearance of Ric's Americano Cafe in Havana, with its obvious riff on Casablanca. And anyone who's ever been in love might just get fed up at Jacky's apparent inability to resist seducing or being seduced by every handsome young man she meets despite her constant protestations of true love for her longtime beau, Lt. Jaimy Fletcher of the British navy. Oh sure, she's never had actual sex with any of her many paramours, but she freely admits to doing everything but. And romance takes another hit.

For all that I complain, though, I cannot help but enjoy these books. Rapture of the Deep proves to be yet another irresistable chapter in Jacky's charmed and exciting life.

This time, she is stolen away on the very day of her long-awaited wedding to Jaimy. British intelligence wants Jacky's help in recovering a trove of Spanish gold off Key West to help fund an expensive war. And Jacky, who has several vital qualities needed to accomplish this difficult mission, is in just enough trouble with the Admiralty already that refusing the assignment is simply not an option.

The adventure takes Jacky into the company of pirates and gamblers, Spanish dons and alligators, even as the science of underwater exploration and salvage makes a tremendous leap forward.

It's very hard, it seems, to stay annoyed with Jacky for long. Even as I reach for the next book in the series, I find myself missing her just a little.

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review by
Tom Knapp

3 July 2010

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