By: Michael Crichton
Publication Date: November 2009
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: January 2010
Sir James Almont, Governor of Jamaica, is dealing with a flare-up of his painful gout. Rather than stay at home and manage his pain, he must fulfill his duties as Governor and, yawn, officiate at yet another hanging. Like the Governor, the reader is likely to yawn through the first few chapters of Pirate Latitudes. But once Captain Charles Hunter enters the scene, things heat up and pages start to quickly turn.
The year is 1665 and Captain Hunter is a dashing rogue, charming the ladies and escaping from the clutches of death time after time. When Hunter learns that a Spanish ship has delivered a load of gold to a nearby island, he puts together a crew that includes Lazue, a woman sharpshooter who dresses like a man and has just about everybody fooled, and Sanson, a seasoned and merciless assassin. The fact that the island fortress is considered impenetrable and recently withstood a 300-man attack doesn’t bother Hunter. The Captain sees it as a challenge and begins the search for another route of attack, one that includes scaling a 400-foot cliff.
The man in charge of protecting the Spanish gold is a brute named Cazalla who has no qualms when it comes to torturing his victims. Indeed, when captured by Cazalla’s ship, Hunter’s crew learns that Cazalla tortured and killed Hunter’s brother. It appears that the handsome Captain Hunter may have a personal vendetta against Cazalla.
The capturing of Hunter and his crew is only the first stop in this high action pirate adventure. There’s plenty of swashbuckling sword fights, rescuing maidens in distress, dealing with bad weather at sea, hungry/dangerous natives, a Kraken (yes, a kraken - not once, but twice), betrayal, and even a trial.
The manuscript for Pirate Latitudes was found after Crichton’s death. Whether the author intended the book to be released is something we’ll never know. Whether Crichton considered the text complete is unclear as well. There are several sections that seem unfinished or read as though they were a first draft. Despite these flaws, it is an enjoyable read and for those desiring a pirate yarn, a worthwhile adventure.
Quill says: Although not among Crichton’s best, Pirate Latitudes is a worthy farewell gift from one of the masters.