Thursday 2 November 2017



Agatha Christie meets Patrick O'Brian in the first book in a new series of swashbuckling historical mysteries featuring Spider John Rush, a most reluctant pirate.

1722--aboard a pirate ship off the American Colonial Coast. 

Spider John Rush never wanted to be a pirate, but it had happened and he'd learned to survive in the world of cut and thrust, fight or die. He and his friend Ezra knew that death could come at any moment, from grapeshot or storm winds or the end of a noose. But when Ezra is murdered in cold blood by a shipmate, Spider vows revenge.

On a ship where every man is a killer many times over, how can Spider find the man who killed his friend? There is no law here, so if justice is to be done, he must do it. He will have to solve the crime and exact revenge himself.

One wrong step will lead to certain death, but Spider is determined to look into the dying eyes of the man who killed his friend, even if it means his own death.

"Steve Goble's debut novel is a rollicking tale of murder and mayhem. He tells a pirate tale like no one else has ever done before. It's unique, original, and all told with the deft hand of an emerging master storyteller. The best thing about this novel? There will be more Spider John books. I can't wait to go on another pirate adventure with this likeable, but dangerous, crew."

--Larry D. Sweazy, award-winning author of Where I Can See You

"Pirate noir? Captain Kidd meets Sam Spade? With The Bloody Black Flag, debut novelist Steve Goble boldly launches a seafaring sleuth subgenre sure to enthrall historical mystery lovers. The first Spider John Rush mystery is a strikingly original blend of pulp magazine-style nautical adventure tale and the traditional whodunit, rich in period atmosphere and dense with white-knuckle tension."

--Craig McDonald, Edgar(R), Anthony, and Macavity Award-nominated author of Head Games

Fair to say this is my first pirate mystery and if Steve Goble keeps churning them out like this one, probably not my last. Best book ever? No but a lot here to like.

Initially we start with a double act of Spider John and his friend Ezra, reluctantly enlisting on the Plymouth Dream under the command of Captain William Barlow. Ezra has history with some of their fellow crew members. Superstitious lot that they are, his witch’s blood makes him a target. He’s a hex and a jinx and before too long he’s dead; murdered in the middle of the night.

Our young pirate, Spider John alone and friendless on a hostile ship heading for the Caribbean swears to avenge Ezra’s death and so our adventure-cum-mystery begins in earnest.

John has his day job as a carpenter, tending to minor repairs around the ship. He tries to watch and scrutinise the rest of the crew, looking for hints and a slip which will reveal the identity of Ezra’s killer, but for most of the journey it’s a fruitless exercise. He forges some friendships and alliances, while keeping his wits about him in a suspicious environment. As well as the mundane, there’s the usual pirate work of attacking and ransacking hapless vessels they encounter on their voyage.

Our ship’s captain has an agenda and the dominant force of personality to keep order among our unruly crew. Other ambitions are at play here. What is the vessel that keeps shadowing and dropping them, shadowing and dropping them? As well as seeking John’s killer and avoiding being captured and hung by the Crown there’s a further puzzle to solve. What object has been stolen from the captain, which has provoked his rage?

It’s a great setting and while I can’t vouch for the authenticity of the boat and whether Goble nails all the details of the everyday routine on a sailing vessel in the early 18th century, it seemed real enough to me.  The confines of the ship makes for a tense and claustrophobic read.

John is an interesting character, brave in battle, loyal to a fault and with a back story that is hinted at, but never fully explored – a wife and child on dry land that have somehow become separated from each other. (I think she was his wife?) A further book or two may fill in those gaps, hopefully.

I really enjoyed this one and it’s quite unlike anything I’ve previously read. I think the last book I read that featured the high seas was a Carl Hiaasen book where a scheming husband flipped his wife overboard, assuming he was rid of a great burden. We have a totally different nautical mystery here.

4 from 5

The Bloody Black Flag is Steve Goble’s first book.

He has a website here. Facebook page here and is on Twitter - @Steve_Goble

Read in October, 2017
Published – 2017
Page count – 240
Source – review copy from publisher, Seventh Street Books
Format - Kindle


  1. It certainly sounds as though there's plenty to like here, Co. It's an interesting context for a story. And I can imagine that being on board the ship adds to the claustrophobia, as you say. Intriguing...

    1. Margot, hats off to the author for writing something a bit "out of the box." It's an interesting premise for a tale. I'll be curious to see how he can mix it up next time around without repeating elements.

  2. Interesting idea, a pirate mystery. Just the unique idea should make the series successful.

    1. Yes, not your usual setting for a murder mystery.

  3. Pirate noir! Love the sound of this, I always have a soft spot for pirates and their stories.