Hough, whose 2013 novel, Dr. Brinkley’s Tower, was nominated for the Governor General’s Award and the Scotiabank Giller Prize in Canada, creates a fictionalized account of a real-life 17th-century swashbuckler. Benjamin Wand is a chess-playing hustler deported from London to Port Royal, Jamaica. He joins the crew of the ship Pearle, captained by the Englishman Henry Morgan and tasked with loosening Spain’s grip on its Caribbean territory. After a successful and treasure-rich mission, Morgan takes an interest in Wand as a chess tutor, and the pair strike up an unlikely friendship, which continues even when Morgan is appointed governor of Jamaica. Hough, a former journalist, based his text on Wand’s autobiography and his own extensive research. Wand and his relationship with Morgan are fascinating, but Hough spends too much time spent incorporating tidbits from his research that slow the pace and don’t serve the story. There is also a distracting difference between Wand’s articulate first-person narration, possibly his older self reflecting back on his life, and his dialogue throughout the book in the voice of his illiterate, street-urchin beginnings. Wand has an intriguing life story but Hough’s telling doesn’t fully do it justice. Agent: Jackie Kaiser, Westwood Creative Artists. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/07/2016 Release date: 05/01/2016 Genre: Fiction
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