Pirate Latitudes: Exhilarating read

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Michael Crichton recreated the terror and triumph that came along with piracy in its golden age in the 1600s. Pirate Latitudes follows an English privateer, Captain Charles Hunter, as he assembles a crew, sets sails, attacks a Spanish galleon and returns home. Obviously none of these tasks were simple.

At the beginning of the book, Hunter meets with the Governor of Jamaica, Sir James Almont, to discuss his next endeavor for the king. As a privateer, Hunter is allowed to utilize all his pirate knowledge but not be arrested. Privateers are servants to the king who share their plunder with the king. Because of this, they have papers stating that they are not to be arrested for common criminal acts of piracy. Hunter’s next mission is to attack a well-known Spanish fortress, Matanceros. At the Spanish stronghold is a galleon filled with treasure. It is one of the most dangerous journeys to make because of Matanceros’ rocky shoreline.

Hunter gathers a crew of fearsome characters to assist. They all seem loyal to him, but they are also all pirates. Loyalty doesn’t run deep in their blood. Along the journey, the English crew encounters storms, sea monsters, attacks from other ships, capture by the Spanish, subsequent escape from capture and trouble on an island where they stopped to escape a storm. It seems the sailors will never make it to Matanceros and home to Jamaica. The ones that make it home alive don’t know how long they will stay alive.

This book keeps you on the edge of your seat waiting to see what the crew will encounter next. There are so many shocking twists in the plot, you will be guessing the entire story who is good and who is evil. The characters switch which side they are on so quickly and sometimes don’t announce a side. You are left guessing right up until the end about who will betray whom next.

The historical accuracy of this book is fascinating. Crichton seems to get the facts spot-on in terms of life at sea for pirates on a raid. It was a fiction book that seemed so real. The short chapters also kept the book flowing. I never wanted it to end, knowing I would have to leave Jamaica and come back to the present.

One of the other fascinating parts of this book is that it was published posthumously. An assistant discovered the manuscript on one of Michael Crichton’s computers after his death, and it was published a year after he died.

If you are looking for an action-packed, swashbuckling tale, or just a good book to read, this book is an excellent one. The writing style keeps a steady pace, and the plot twists make it hard to put down.