cover image The Pirate's Daughter

The Pirate's Daughter

Robert Girardi. Delacorte Press, $21.95 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-385-31485-5

A contemporary tale of piracy, slavery and other acts of skulduggery, Girardi's second novel again straddles the line between the real and the wildly improbable, as was the case in the well-received Madeleine's Ghost. It's a sinister and lusty romantic adventure propelled by a fluid narrative style laced with disturbing undertones. Wilson Lander, whose tragic childhood (both his parents died before he was 10) left him with a permanent sense of dread, meets Susan ""Cricket"" Page, a sexy woman working in an occult store only until she ships out to sea as a crew member on a private yacht. Feeling trapped and unhappy, Lander, an executive assistant to his girlfriend, Andrea, a v-p at a small brokerage firm in an unnamed coastal city, is vulnerable to Cricket's seductive allure. Around the same time, in a farfetched plot element so smoothly integrated into the story it feels completely natural, Lander falls in with some young African men, survivors of the tribal warfare ravaging their home, the fictional country of Bupanda. Lander ends up going to sea with the mysterious and untrustworthy Cricket. But loving Cricket means entering a world of modern-day pirates armed with both guns and laptops, who live on an island off the coast of barbaric Bupanda, where slavery thrives. Reunited with his Bupandan friends, Lander is forced to choose between Cricket and his own humanity. After a near mythic journey of over two years, Lander comes back to civilization and settles down-but Cricket has a surprise in store for him yet. Intensely atmospheric, occasionally cynical yet somehow timeless in its sensual tone, the book is a clever and intriguing balancing act, a fantasy with enough real-world roots to make it all seem as horribly plausible as it is wonderfully entertaining. Audio rights to Audio Renaissance; Author tour. (Jan.)