The Fortunes of Captain Blood (Rafael Sabatini, 1936)

This is, I think, the fourth book in the Captain Blood series, but as its the only one I’ve read, I can’t comment on whatever continuing story there might be. I doubt there is one, as there’s really no overarching plot within this volume — each chapter is a more or less independent short story. Peter Blood, once an Irish surgeon, is a wanted man back in Europe for rendering aid to an injured enemy soldier and so is forced into piracy in the Caribbean. He remains, however, a virtuous sort of buccaneer, stealing only from those who deserve to be stolen from. Those people, generally but not exclusively, are the Spanish. Blood’s battles are sometimes won by violence and at other times by cunning. My favorite chapter, called “Sacrilege”, is an example of the later. An English slave trader is robbed by the Spanish commander of Havana. Blood disguises his compatriot as the Cardinal-Archbishop of New Spain and demands ransom from Havana for his release. The ransom, of course, is more than enough to repay the Englishman and make it worth Blood’s while.

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Jamaica Inn (Daphne du Maurier, 1936)

After the death of her mother, Mary Yellan is sent north to live with her aunt. It’s been many years since she’s seen Aunt Patience and Mary now finds her to be the wife of the landlord of Jamaica Inn. The place is notorious throughout Cornwall as being the seat of a wrecker gang — men who lure ships into the rocks, kill the crew, and steal their cargo. Patience is a broken woman with dog-like devotion to her husband Joss, despite his cruelty.

Mary confides in Joss’s estranged brother Jem and Francis Davey, vicar of nearby Altarnun. Jem is an unrepentant horse thief, but he prides himself that at least he’s no murderer. Davey is an albino, but his physical appearance isn’t the only thing strange about him. His cold and almost derisive demeanor is not in keeping with his profession.

The story comes to a head on Christmas Eve when Joss’s drunken carelessness catches up with him and his gang wrecks a ship too close to daybreak and has to scatter in chaos before being discovered. Joss plans to flee the country. Mary escapes the house and goes to Davey, but finding him not at home, continues to the squire to raise the alarm. When they arrive at Jamaica Inn, they find that Joss and Patience are both dead — stabbed in the back. It would seem that Joss was not the ringleader of the gang and that the actual boss had cut his loses.

But who is the boss? Mary, who’s been taken to the vicarage, isn’t long in suspense. Davey would seem not to be a very good Christian. In fact, he holds more faith in the old gods of the Druids. He abducts Mary and intends on taking her to Africa, but Jem has figured him out and leads a manhunt that ends in Davey’s death and Mary’s rescue.

Mary at first intends on going south to her home town, where she’s sure to find welcome by many friends, but at last throws caution to the wind and follows Jem wherever his lawless wanderings may take him.

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