A BOTTLE OF RUM
by Steve Goble
August, 1723 -- Spider John Rush believes he has escaped piracy forever. Enjoying rum and chess in a dark Lymington tavern, he dreams of finding passage to Nantucket to reunite with his beloved Em and to finally get to know the son he remembers only as a babe in arms, though the lad must be dreaming of going to sea himself by now. But when a lazy taverner is stabbed to death, one glance at the victim tells Spider the pirate life has followed him ashore and he cannot possibly ignore this bloody crime. The wise manoeuvre would be to run before authorities arrive, but Spider is denied that choice because he’s already deeply, connected to the crime—he fashioned the murder weapon with his own hands.
A Bottle of Rum is Steve Goble’s third novel and the latest in his Spider John series following The Bloody Black Flag and The Devil's Wind.
The inquisitive pirate Spider John takes on a detective’s role in A Bottle of Rum as he wants to see that justice is done. A murder he attempts to solve soon adds a missing person’s case to his workload. Neither were in Spider John’s plans - and more murder awaits!
He and his trusted friend Odin were minding their own business at the Crosskeys Inn, Spider John working as a carpenter on the Inn’s stairs in return for some food, drink and board. They are trying to get away from the pirating life, but current intentions or remorse are irrelevant because if they are caught they will be executed. Odin even wonders if hiding is preferable to their old criminal ways when they at least had fresh air and sun. He’s suspicious of their situation, fearing the owner/landlord might sell them to the admiralty. Spider trusts the female owner/landlady but even he has doubts over her husband, especially as it’s her that seems to do all the work.
Bird-fearing Spider John and his one-eyed pal Odin are playing chess when a cry of murder is heard from the landlady. Odin warns Spider John not to go up the stairs to her assistance but, after no one else wants to help, Spider heads up to find the lazy landlord dead, with a knife in his neck. Spider recognises the wooden handle being from a knife he’d made for a young man called Hob. Spider spots a small footprint of blood and signs that the killer entered and exited by the window. He sets of in pursuit and soon recognised the murderer.
The trail leads Spider John and Odin to an asylum where rich folk have paid for members of their family to stay as patients. But the patients are dying. Spider John uses work fixing the rotten gate as an in. The asylum contains such interesting characters – including a girl obsessed with death - and its own mysteries. Spider John must brave sharp steel, musket balls, gunpowder bombs, dangerous women and gruesome surgery if he is to find his foolish young friend alive and try once again to put piracy in their past.
If you’re expecting an adventure at sea, you’ll be disappointed. If you want a good read with crime, fun and mystery, this could be for you. Entertaining, from the outset to its final line, A Bottle of Rum is a great read, and sets up a potential new adventure. Roll on book 4.
About Steve Goble
Goble also writes fantasy, horror and science fiction, plus some poetry. One of my short stories was an honorable mention in “The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 2008,” edited by Ellen Datlow, Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant. He is represented by The Evan Marshall Agency.