Friday, August 31, 2018

Friday Forgotten (or Overlooked) Book: MURDER MAKES MISTAKES (1958) by George Bellairs

I know most of you are probably so over my George Bellairs fixation, but get a grip - I just have to talk about this one.

Yes, I'm still on my Bellairs kick and though a couple of the books here and there have been not so very good, the good more than outweighs the duds. Hey, the man wrote a lot of books - plenty to pick and choose from. No one hits it out of the park every single time.

MURDER MAKES MISTAKES is especially riveting since it involves the inexplicable shooting of Sergeant Cromwell, Scotland Yard Superintendent Littlejohn's assistant and good friend. Cromwell has been named an executor in his late uncle, Richard Twigg, and had been attending to family business in the small Cheshire village of Rushton Inferior. (Yes, there's also a Rushton Superior.) 

When Mrs. Cromwell calls Littlejohn with the startling news, the Superintendent drops everything and rushes to help. Cromwell has been Littlejohn's crony over the course of many cases, many mysteries. As the Superintendent rushes north to see what he can do - in a still unofficial capacity - to help his old friend, he is torn by anger and grief. He can only hope for the very best as Cromwell is  operated on - results so far uncertain.

The details are these. Cromwell had been found lying on a village sidewalk in the dark of night, shot in the head by a small caliber pistol. No witnesses. No rhyme or reason. He was not working on a case, he was in the village on a personal family errand to attend his favorite uncle's funeral.

Of course everything is not as it first appears. Is it possible that Cromwell has inadvertently stumbled unto a mystery? 

I love this sort of story where something utterly confounding happens and then slowly, everything unravels, bit by bit.  It helps too when the author is so adept at creating interesting characters, all with assorted quirks and secrets of their own. And the settings, ah, the settings - Bellairs is so darn good at getting all that right - the ambience, the colorful absurdities of village life. Plus he is equally good  writing women as well as men which always helps. In fact, his women are often more vivid than his men.

Once Littlejohn begins his inquiry into the attack on Cromwell, it becomes clear that there are other things amiss in the village of Rushton Inferior.

What is, at first, being investigated as a mysterious attack on an officer of the law then turns into a much broader inquiry involving all sorts of secrets past and present. An undiscovered murder is unearthed which leads, in turn, to a another murder and in the end, yet another. Blackmail, adultery, bigamy, suicide, murder most foul - all the sorts of things that keep life interesting in small English villages - well, at least in the ones I like to read about.

The 'grieving' widow - a much younger woman of course - of Cromwell's uncle is an intriguingly well created if enigmatic character - though not especially bright or in the first bloom of youth, she is still the sort of woman around which men buzz. I like how Bellairs makes her seem one thing and then another as Littlejohn bloodhounds his way into various village intrigues.

My favorite character is Cank, the grieving widow's sinister, creepy-crawly butler. CANK. Now there's a name to live in infamy. It suits the odious little wanker perfectly. Bellairs has a Dickensian thing for names now and again, another reason why I like his work.

MURDER MAKES MISTAKES is a terrific book with an ending in which several surprises are revealed just as you think you know everything. One of Bellairs' best, in my opinion.

And since it's Friday, once again don't forget to check in at author Patricia Abbott's blog, Pattinase, to see what other forgotten or overlooked books other bloggers are talking about.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Friday Forgotten (or Overlooked) Book: THE RIVER OF NO RETURN by Bee Ridgway

This a first novel by Bee Ridgway, as such, it  has its bumpy moments and bits of clunk, but on the whole works very nicely and is - dare I say it? - remarkably engrossing. At 452 ambitious pages, it still reads quickly and soon enough you're at the end and left wanting more. So I'm assuming this is the first in either a series or a trilogy. Only time will tell.

THE RIVER OF NO RETURN sports a fast-paced, enjoyably inventive plot: part time-travel opus. part Regency romance with the romance aspect being the least interesting. Why? Well, because the Regency aspects appeared to me to be a bit forced and lacking in 'oomph'. But then I'm currently listening to several Georgette Heyer - queen of Regency authors - audio books and it's difficult NOT to make some slight comparison which, of course, is totally unfair to Bee Ridgway, but life isn't always fair.

Okay, enough snarkiness.

The Plot:

It is early days in the nineteenth century and the Most Honorable Nicholas Falcott, Marquess of Falcott - Lord Nick to his men - is just about to die under the heel of Napoleon's troops on the field of battle in the hills south of Salamanca, Spain. Brave Nicholas looks up to face his mortality in the form of a plunging saber when he is suddenly whisked away to 2003. 

When he wakes up he is disconcerted to find himself in a white room with bright ceiling lights (well, what else?). It is explained to him that he has traveled forward in time and must now place himself in the hands of a cabal of time managers known as the Guild. He is also told the four rules under which he will live, now and for all time: 

There Is No Return.
There is No Return.
Tell No One.
Uphold the Rules.

The Guild's explanation for this extraordinary event is kind of vague, but since they're willing to pay him an exorbitant yearly income to move to America (no 'traveler' is allowed to stay in their own country of birth) and, under a new name, live out his new life as he pleases. Nicholas sees no reason to challenge much of the nonsense he is being told despite his yearning dreams for a young woman he left behind in 1812. In fact, Nick's quick acceptance of all this is one of the book's slight faults, but what the heck, let's move forward. And after all, no matter how preposterous, it's better than being dead. Right?

But first Nick must attend a modern day indoctrination school which is situated in an isolated spot in the Peruvian Andes. Once there he meets other 'travelers' who have arrived from different eras, ready for indoctrination and whatever comes their way - though some are still befuddled and bewildered. Well, wouldn't you be? It is there that Nick's suspicions of the Guild are first awakened but then, rather pragmatically, he decides he might just as well go along to get along.

He settles nicely into a sybaritic life style in Vermont, enjoying dalliances with any willing and beautiful female who happens by, including the local cheese inspector who, lo and behold, turns out to be....wait, I'm getting ahead of myself, as usual.

Remember The Four Rules? Well, turns out that as with any rules of any import whatsoever, they were made to be broken.

And soon enough Nick is back in 1812 doing mysterious work for the Guild. He learns about 'the Ophans' who, according to the Guild are time renegades out to destroy the world by enabling the end of time itself. Of course they must be infiltrated and stopped at any cost.

But are they as black as they're painted - really? Or is the Guild merely guilty of pathological overreach? Who can Nick trust?

In the meantime, Julia, the girl Nick had been yearning for and who, coincidentally, was raised on a neighboring estate by a loving grandfather who, apparently kept one too many secrets, is added to the tumult of Nick's return to the past.

What is a poor Marquess to do?

Especially when it turns out that unknown to Nick, Julia has recently discovered that she has the ability to stop time in its tracks. A very intriguing talent to be sure.

Bee Ridgway loads her book with engaging characters, colorful settings and imaginative details, i.e. the cozy underground Ophan hideout situated beneath the streets of 19th century London and full of modern day quirks - fast food, an electric generator, etc - all unbeknownst to the Regency era citizens going about their business on the streets above. I admit this was my very favorite part of the book, perhaps because it was the most visually realized.

Except for a totally unnecessary sexual interlude which brings the story to a dead stop but which is easy enough to skim through - as I did - not to mention a bit of a flat ending, this is a definite Must Read for those of us who enjoy an imaginative time-travel tale, sumptuously told.

THE RIVER OF NO RETURN is not perfect, but it IS one of those - lately hard to find - books that the reader will get giddily lost in and that is definitely the highest praise I can give it.

(This review is a reworking of a post from a few years ago.)

P.S. Here it is several years later and I'm still waiting for a sequel. I can only assume that Bee Ridgway writes exceedingly slowly. But hopefully, soon, SOON!

This week we're back at author Patricia Abbott's blog, Pattinase, (welcome back, Patti!) checking out what other forgotten or overlooked books other bloggers are talking about today. Don't forget to go take a look.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Friday's Forgotten Book: DARKNESS AT PEMBERLEY (1932) by T.H. White

I am still capable of delight when I find a book that 'wows' me and wins me over completely and DARKNESS AT PEMBERLEY more than wowed me the first time around.  So much so that I've re-worked my review from several years ago just to alert those among you who still might not be familiar with this oh-so-terrific book.

But first things first, I must thank Sergio once again over at TIPPING MY FEDORA for his wonderful review which introduced me originally to T.H.White's one and only mystery. Link. And Kate MacDonald's incisive review is also one to check out. Link.

I was familiar with White only as the author of THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING and other Arthurian books and such, but never even suspected he'd written a good old rip-roaring mystery - one I instantly fell in love with and hated to see end. (I even slowed down my reading to make the story last longer.) Yeah, I was hooked good and proper.

White's book begins like many English mysteries of that period with the discovery of a body - a Cambridge don dead in a locked room (yes, one of those). But then that's followed very quickly by the twin discoveries of  two other bodies - that of a student and a bit later, a school laborer named Rudd. Are the three murders connected? You bet.

Okay so we're off and running. But here's the switch: early on we know who the killer is. So I suppose this is what you'd call an 'inverted' mystery. I'm usually NOT a big fan of those. However, as we know, there's always an exception to any rule. If you're clever enough, smart enough and write well enough, you get away with the unorthodox.

Scotland Yard is on the case from the beginning in the form of Inspector Buller and he soon figures out who's responsible for the three murders. But here's the quandary: there's no evidence. (This is 1932 - forensics aren't what they are today.) The case has no future, Buller's superiors surmise that the professor killed the student (who knows why?) and then killed himself. We don't always know the motives of these things. Case closed.

But who slit Rudd's throat?

Frustrated by his inability to bring the crimes home to the actual killer and feeling guilty because he didn't save the third victim, Buller quits the force. He even goes so far as to contemplate murder himself in order to stop a madman whom he is convinced will kill again. Is there ever any justification for taking the law into your own hands? Especially for an ex-policeman? Questions Buller ponders and his conclusion may not be yours but it sure as heck was mine.

This all occurs after he's confronted the killer and told him what he suspects and the killer has admitted that yes indeed, he committed the heinous crimes and isn't it too bad that there's nothing Buller can do about it. Tsk. Tsk.

A dispirited and despondent Buller goes off to stay at an estate owned by friends of his. A brother and sister who are basically social recluses despite their wealth. The brother has served time in prison for a crime he did not commit but for which everyone (except Buller and a few others) believes him guilty.

But wait a minute, you're thinking, where does this Pemberley business come in? 

Well, the estate in question is THE Pemberley of Jane Austen's book (aha!), the brother in question is named Charles Darcy and his sister is Elizabeth - a family name (which readers of Austen will find familiar) handed down. BUT - and here's the catch, THAT'S the only link with anything Austen-wise and in fact there is no mention of it at all except that we're made to understand (almost as a throwaway) that the current Darcy brother and sister are descendants. So forget about that, it's not important though the house itself plays a HUGE part in the ensuing tale.

The brother rarely leaves Pemberley because of the ill-will directed at him by townspeople and residents of the area and he is chafing at the bit to do something, anything to take his mind off his troubles. When Buller shows up with his story of a murderer whom no one can touch though he has already killed at least three people - an outraged Darcy goes off half-cocked (without telling Buller) to Cambridge to kill the killer. Actually what he does is have a confrontation with him - just the sort of thing you must never EVER do - but when he leaves the murderer is very much alive. Uh-oh.

Though this is 1932, this episode in the story has a very Victorian feel to it, but what the heck. The important thing is that Darcy needs to bring himself to the bad guy's attention so that the rest of the story can take place. It's as good a way as any.

Back at Pemberley, a dismayed Buller tells Charles that his ill-advised meeting with a remorseless killer cannot have a happy end. But Darcy, brother and sister, scoff at this. The fact that the killer has already done away with three victims doesn't frighten them very much. They believe Buller is letting his imagination run away with him. HUH? I don't know about you, but three dead bodies impress the heck out of me.

Even Elizabeth (whom Buller is secretly in love with) thinks Buller is exaggerating the danger. That is until the first and then the second attempt on Charles' life.

Just for the wicked fun of it, the killer begins toying with his prey. Irksome shadows, strange noises, bumps in the night and other spooky manifestations make Charles regret his impulsiveness. It soon becomes obvious that the murderer is hiding somewhere on the estate, mysteriously managing to elude Buller, the Darcys and their loyal staff.

Pembereley and its inhabitants are under siege. The Darcys can't ask the police for help because they would not be believed - I wonder that Buller didn't have a friend on the force whom he could turn to, but apparently he didn't. They do however have a doctor friend who arrives to join in the hide and seek which takes up about three quarters of the book. This action is mostly centered at Pemberley itself as the killer has obviously found a way to maneuver in the dark, moving about the house like a spectre in the night.

White's style isvery much of the Wilkie Collins school with a dose of Christie and a touch of Dickson Carr (in the locked room part - the mystery of which is solved early on) but written at a much quicker pace. We know who the killer is but where the heck is he? How is he managing to elude his pursuers while never, apparently, leaving the house? The mystery deepens when another brutal murder occurs.

Those of you who think of Pemberely as hallowed ground will, no doubt, be shocked by all this. But all I can say is: get over it.

DARKNESS AT PEMBERLEY is a darkly sinister but fast-paced tale which rattles the imagination - in a good and creepy way. I actually had to stop reading and take tension breaks during the heart of the action - it's THAT thrilling I loved it! Oh and of course near the end, Buller has to take on the killer single-handedly while Charles and Elizabeth's lives hang in the balance. It is to be expected, but it still works when done this well.

My only minor quibble is that the end when it comes seems a bit too hasty, but other than that, the book is pretty near perfect.

If this was going to be White's one and only mystery, it's just as well it was a doozy. But I still wish he'd written a few more.

Todd Mason is doing hosting duties this Friday at his blog, Sweet Freedom so don't forget to check in and see what other forgotten or overlooked books other bloggers are recommending today.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

F.Y.I. If you're a Michael Innes fan (or wannabe a fan), pay attention...

Michael Innes (1906 - 1994)

What kind of fan-girl would I be if I didn't shout to the world that a whole bunch of Michael Innes books are currently available as part of the Kindle Unlimited program Amazon has going on. Remember I told you that if you join you get the first month free then it's 10 bucks per month and you can cancel anytime for any reason - you know how that goes. But here's the thing, if you were going to buy say, two or three Kindle books in any given month, then do the math. It's totally worth the ten bucks.

Okay not every book on Amazon is part of the program (and titles come and go that's why it's best to strike while the iron is hot - so to speak) but enough are that it's worth it to me to sign on for now. And guess what - there are lots and lots of golden age mysteries currently available. 

At any rate, it's MICHAEL INNES, for goodness' sake. I've read almost all of Innes' books and I've mentioned about a million times that I'm a HUGE fan-girl. But if you're still not familiar with Innes or are intrigued but haven't been able to find his books or whatever - HERE'S YOUR CHANCE!!! 

Just thought I'd let you know and no I do not get a penny from Amazon for my unabashed enthusiasm for Kindle Unlimited. 

By the way, K.U. is how I'm currently going through my George Bellairs fixation.

P.S. Yes, yes, I know we would ALL love to have the actual hardcover (or paperback) books in our hands instead of just the electronic version, but sometimes these older almost forgotten writers are not available that readily. So to my mind, e-books are better than nothing. It's one way to remember and enjoy the work of these guys.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Friday Forgotten (or Overlooked) Book:THE YELLOW ROOM (1945) by Mary Roberts Rinehart

I remember reading this a few years ago and even more astounding, I vaguely remember having that great feeling of discovery you get when you come across a terrific book where, maybe, you'd only expected a moderately good one. I found THE YELLOW ROOM on one of my kitchen bookshelves tucked behind some other things and truth be known, as usually happens, I'd totally forgotten I had it at all.

I'm currently in the mood to reread this so this is a reworking of an old post from a few years ago. It's possible I may be on the verge of a Mary Roberts Rinehart reading binge. Side by side with George Bellairs. Hey, it's how we roll around here.

Mary Roberts Rinehart was chairman of the board of the 'had I but known' school of mystery writing but that doesn't make her work any the less intriguing. I love her stuff. Though, admittedly, she is an acquired taste.

Rinehart's heroines are of their time, the early 50's, late 40's and they can, occasionally, be a little hard to take, but even so I still enter eagerly into these mid-last-century misadventures. Most of her leading ladies in distress are wealthy or nearly so - in the days when being 'poor' meant having one servant as opposed to four or five, so maybe we have to work a little at empathizing with their various entanglements which often include long hidden family secrets, misguided love and murder most foul. That kind of thing.

These women were of a type and belonged to a certain 'sphere' which, back in the day, they were perfectly willing to remain in. Not that I have anything against nice, Waspy, wealthy young women looking to defy their mothers, fathers, aunts, cousins or guardians by marrying the wrong sort, Although Rinehart's heroines were also occasionally well-to-do middle-aged spinsters which was a nice touch. Truth is a lot of Rinehart's plots tend to be somewhat similar and nearly always involve a mysterious house in some way or other. But so what, murder in a nice big creepy house with unreliable electricity is, in some strange way which I cannot exactly explain, kind of comforting. Ha! Rinehart made a niche for herself and excelled at what she did.

Her best book, I think, was THE CIRCULAR STAIRCASE, which I've read several times over the years - and listened to on audio. (Her most famous book, I suppose, is THE BAT which was actually nothing more or less than a re-working of The Circular Staircase.) Though the actual protagonist in these two books is an older woman of the 'take no prisoners' variety who sets things in motion by deciding to rent a large summer house out in the country.  EPISODE OF THE WANDERING KNIFE with its odd title is another favorite Rinehart. But THE YELLOW ROOM is right up there in my top five.

Mary Roberts Rinehart wasn't the only one fashioning these sorts of talesThere was a certain type of woman writer working during this time - Mignon Eberhart was another, M.M. Kaye possibly (until she broke free with the splendid historical romantic adventure THE FAR PAVILIONS), who wrote pleasant women-in-peril books which contained mysteries, some of them first class, but always under the guise of good manners, country club outings, large summer houses or estates and stalwart young men, often with sun tans. These tales weren't meant, I don't think as anything more than pleasant diversions and sometimes I feel as if I should be wearing white gloves while reading them. 

One of the more interesting coincidences among these writers is that a lot of them lived good long lives. M.M. Kaye (1908-2004) just died a few years ago and Eberhart (1899-1996) and Mary Roberts Rinehart (1876 - 1958) were also long-lived. Maybe being a mystery writer is the way to go. Look at Agatha Christie. (1890 - 1976). Though of course, of all of them, Christie was the master.

THE YELLOW ROOM concerns the 'opening' of a large summer house in Maine by people whose families have houses in Newport and New York. The heroine is Carol Spencer, a young woman of  means, though she declares herself poor when down to only a couple of reluctant servants to help with throwing back the dust covers at Crestview. (Houses with names, a tip that you're not in Kansas anymore.) But I think Carol is being 'ironic' when she says this, so I decided she was okay.

The story takes place near the end of WWII when shortages are everywhere and there are few men left in villages and towns to do any work. For instance there is only one cop left in town, the chief of police - when it comes to investigating crime. Rations exist and everyone knows someone who is in the armed services either stateside or overseas. Society is changing and Carol's mother is one of those who refuses to believe they won't be able to afford 6 or 7 servants, as in the past. Carol, at least, is pragmatic. Within the scope of her worldview, that is.

Thankfully, her charmless mother is left behind at Carol's sister's house, while Carol is sent up north (kind of like being exiled) to open Crestview, the silent house near the sea, merely on the off chance, it seems, that her brother Greg, a medal of honor winner, will be wanting to stay there for a few days before his coming marriage. (Greg is in the country temporarily to receive his medal in Washington.)

Once Carol arrives with three woebegone servants in tow - I loved the complaints about there being no porters at the train station and having to carry their own bags. They manage to get up to the house, arriving on a chilly, hostile and deserted night. Nights that always exist in these sorts of places in these sorts of books. That's why I like them.

The first thing Carol and her servants do at Crestview, is find the dead, partially burned body of a woman in a closet upstairs. And the fun begins.

From then on, it's any body's guess as to what happens next which is one of the more intriguing aspects of this story. The plot never seems to go where you think it's going to. There are more suspects than you can shake a stick at - Carol's brother, older sister and various neighbors including the father of Carol's fiance. Don Henderson, the fiance, is missing and presumed dead, his plane was shot down in the Pacific. The various relationships are developed nicely and you do get a good picture of this isolated Maine community peopled mostly with women, the elderly and one or two younger men who are there only for a short time and for particular reasons and must soon move on, back to war. That is, if murder stateside doesn't get in the way.

There is a love story thrown in for good measure, between Carol and one of the men staying nearby recuperating from a war wound. That he appears to do mysterious work for the government doesn't hurt the plot any.

I have to say I found it hard to put this book down, so I kind of read it in one fell swoop. A nice surprise, considering too that the book has been languishing on my shelves for years. (The ending is a bit convoluted, but I think that was probably the 'norm' at that time. I've read many mysteries from that era with convoluted endings which often leave me shaking my head. But it's not an intolerable thing.)

Yes, I think it might possibly be time for a Mary Roberts Rinehart marathon of sorts. We'll see how it goes.

In the meantime, don't forget to check in at Todd Mason's blog, Sweet Freedom, to see what other forgotten or overlooked books other bloggers are talking about today. Todd will be doing hosting duties while Patricia Abbott is away. 

Friday, August 3, 2018

Friday Forgotten (or Overlooked) Book:CAPTAIN BLOOD (1922) by Rafael Sabatini

I can't help it. I love a good, florid, swash and buckle story. Always have. I've been hooked ever since I read Sabatini's THE SEA HAWK years ago. Rafael Sabatini is, to my mind, the king of this kind of idealized adventure tale full of swordplay and good manners.

Read it a few years ago and wrote about it then, so this is an updated review of a book I absolutely adore and can't recommend enough. 

You all know that CAPTAIN BLOOD was turned into an instant classic film starring Errol Flynn back in the day when swashbuckling was taken seriously. But the book is just as good as the film. In fact, it adds a certain level of richness and zest to the familiar plot. Rafael Sabatini, writing in the romantic, flamboyant style of the 19th century had a way with words that today might seem anachronistic or unintentionally humorous. But I suspend my disbelief, curb my 'sophisticated, modern' tastes and throw myself wholeheartedly into Sabatini's dashing world where men were men, honor was a big deal and swordplay was a given. True, women of a certain class didn't have much to do but cling, faint and stand around looking beautiful (really, how much could anyone be expected to do while wearing a cumbersome gown made of acres of fabric with all that bound-in-place underpinning - it was fortunate they could breathe) but one can't have everything. I still love these tales.

Rafael Sabatini (1875 - 1950)

I've read a bit about Sabatini's life and know that for all the success he achieved, he lived though two dreadful tragedies which no human being should ever have to endure:

His beloved son died in an automobile crash on his way back to their home and Sabatini came upon the crash site, his son's body on the road. But that's not all. The son of his second wife died in a plane crash right before his mother and step-father's very eyes, as he piloted his own plane. 

(Tell me the universe makes any kind of rational sense.)

The first class adventure stories Sabatini concocted pale in comparison to this horrific set of real-life coincidences, but maybe he was able to lose himself in his writing.

Captain Blood cover illustration by N.C. Wyeth

'Peter Blood, bachelor of medicine and several other things besides, smoked a pipe and tended the geraniums boxed on the sill of his window above Water Lane in the town of Bridgewater.'

So (deceptively quiet and bucolic) begins CAPTAIN BLOOD, a rip-roaring yarn of betrayal, action on the high seas, courtly gentlemen, beautiful women, pirate derring-do, battles to the death, sword play, torture, flowery words, love, unwashed bodies and all around earthy good stuff. 

A physician and gentleman living in 18th century England, Irishman Peter Blood is a good, honorable man bound to his duties. In the aftermath of a series of unfortunate events, he is unjustly arrested, brought to 'trial' and sentenced to be transported as a slave to the Caribbean island of Jamaica.

Once there, the extreme hardships he and his fellow slaves must endure turn them into wounded, broken men willing to do anything to escape. Most heinous is the grievous treatment they endure at the hands of the odious Colonel Bishop, the land baron who 'owns' them. Peter Blood alone has the 'easier' time of it, since he is a doctor and the island's gout-ridden governor takes a liking to him.

Bishop's niece Arabella (who, in sympathy, had insisted her uncle buy Blood at the slave market) takes a liking to Blood's stalwart demeanor. Though he is seen as nothing but a slave she comes to recognize his worth as a man and a gentleman. He, in turn, is taken with her beauty, kindness and high spirit. 

Soon, and by another series of occurrences - all splendidly written, I might add - Blood and his fellow slaves survive a surprise attack on the island by a blood-thirsty band of Spanish pirates who take no quarter and commit horrendous acts of brutality upon the defenseless islanders. (So, in this instance, the English are bad enough, but the Spanish are worse.)

These thrilling exploits are crafted by a master hand. I LOVED these pages as Blood and his band of ragged fellows not only survive but turn the tables on the rampaging Spanish AND the cruel Colonel Bishop. Hooray!

Once Blood, through cleverness, courage and determination is able to gather about him a fighting band of men - not to mention, a ship - he becomes Captain Peter Blood scourge of the Caribbean. 

Peter Blood is uneasy in his adopted 'trade' but aware of the necessity for he is, in truth, an outlaw - a man without a country. Yet this truth does not sit easy on Blood's shoulders. When he, by chance runs into Arabella Bishop again after three years of plying his trade in the Caribbean, he is stung when she calls him a 'thief and a pirate.'

'Captain Blood...did not hear anything save the echo of those cruel words which had dubbed him thief and pirate.

Thief and pirate!

It is an odd fact of human nature that a man may for years possess the knowledge that a certain thing must be of a certain fashion, and yet be shocked to discover through his own senses that the fact is in perfect harmony with his beliefs. When first, three years ago, at Tortuga he had been urged upon the adventurer's course which he had followed ever since, he had known in what opinion Arabella Bishop must hold him if he succumbed. Only the conviction that already she was forever lost to him, by introducing a certain desperate recklessness into his soul, had supplied the final impulse to drive him upon his rover's course.

That he should ever meet her again had not entered his calculations, had found no place in his dreams.'

How Peter Blood's daring exploits serve to shape the man and the story and how it all contrives to make for a happy ending well, you will have to read CAPTAIN BLOOD to find out. If you're in the mood for a 'thumping good read', then this is the book for you. 

Rafael Sabatini: too good to be overlooked or forgotten.

Todd Mason is doing hosting duties for Patricia Abbott this week at his blog, Sweet Freedom. Don't forget to check in to see what other forgotten or overlooked books other bloggers are talking about today.