England seemed a cold, hard-hearted country to Jack Holborn, who had been abandoned on the steps of St Bride's church in Holborn as a baby and reared on parish charity, so one good black night he stowed away on the Charming Molly as she lay in harbour at Bristol.
Pirates were part of life in the mid-eighteenth century. Some were poor devils of no great wickedness, but the crew that boarded Jack's ship were so deep in damnation that they were more like terrible wolves than men.
While the captain claimed to have the tantalizing secret of his parentage, Jack could never run away, so endured all the pirates' adventures, storms, the bloody battles and ghostly appearances, the terrible shipwreck and march through the sodden African jungle, the horrors of a slave market and a murder trial at the Old Bailey in London.
Leon Garfield's first book is in the best Stevenson tradition, a wonderful blood-and-thunder story, packed with fascinating characters and dominated overall by the figure of the mysterious captain. For readers of eleven upwards.
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