Ah, Angelina – she's a fine girl, a fine girl. I don't think she would have been a good wife, though, not even to the man she - as she tells sword jockey Eddie LaCrosse - fell in love with some twenty years ago. This man, Edward Tew, then began a new career as a pirate to fund a happy life with her, made one surprise huge score, and then vanished. She hires Eddie to find Tew - and despite some reluctance to work for
a friend someone he knows so well he agrees to take the case.
This is the fourth book in this series, with, therefore, an established universe (which I hadn't visited before), so the new reader (that would be me) is left to figure out that Eddie is, basically, Sam Spade with a sword instead of a gun (hence "sword jockey"), a former mercenary who now takes on private investigator-y work. His world is not one built strictly along any classical fantasy lines: this is a place with permeable boundaries, where such things as popular American songs of the seventies and Shakespeare's Henry V bleed through in such a way that makes it clear that Alex Bledsoe's tongue was firmly in cheek while he wrote. It doesn't scream "look how FUNNY!" - it just is. I'm looking forward to seeing what seeped through in the other books in the series.
Eddie is very, very cool. He's the private eye you want to hire - competent, smart, not entirely cynical as yet, funny, and with good connections. One of these latter is Jane Argo, former pirate queen turned pirate hunter, who is herself pretty awesome. Almost, in fact, as awesome as her reputation states, rather like Eddie. I like their relationship – all of the relationships, in fact. They're a well-formed cast of characters – just what I needed: another series I need to go find and read. I'll just stop sleeping now.
The action moves from the tavern to the port town where Angelina once lived, to a prison which would make for a tremendous film sequence, to sundry pirate – er, sailing ships and a deserted desert island. And action there is in plenty, as to Angelina's mystery is added a new, larger one, which may just be related: ships are being found adrift, their crews and passengers having done a Marie Celeste: they are simply gone, leaving lifeboats and possessions and in some cases half-eaten meals behind. Sailors are scared, from the greenest cabin boy to the most gnarled pirate – but Eddie has a hunch, and he cajoles his ship's captain and crew to go against what seems to be common sense and go investigating. And on through ghosts and sea monsters and shipboard battle (and theatrical performance, which was a kick) the hunt takes them.
It was Robert Louis Stevenson-meets-Jim Butcher. It was tremendous fun. Another one for The List.