The Bloody Black Flag: A Spider John Mystery

Steve Goble. Seventh Street, $15.95 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-63388-359-8

Set in 1772, Goble’s shaky debut and series launch mixes a violent pirate yarn with amateur-detective snooping. To escape law officers hot on their heels, Spider John Rush and his friend Ezra reluctantly join the crew of the outlaw ship Plymouth Dream, which is anchored in a cove south of Boston. They plan to desert as soon as they’re safely away from the Massachusetts Bay Colony coast, but Ezra’s death aboard the ship disrupts that scheme. Spider John knows that someone on Plymouth Dream must have murdered his friend, and he vows to find the killer and take revenge. At this point, the story could have followed the model of the traditional country house puzzle, focusing on a small pool of suspects. Unfortunately, the pirate vessel is carrying too many eccentric, dangerous folks who could be guilty, from a tattooed religious fanatic to the homicidal captain. Spider John’s observations of shipboard life and the scurvy crew are more interesting than the feeble mystery. [em]Agent: Evan Marshall, Evan Marshall Agency. (Sept.) [/em]