Hunt the White Gold
In 1717 Valentim Mendes, Governor of the Portuguese Verdes, midway between Portugal and Brazil, was relieved of his left hand by the pirate Patrick Devlin and seeks revenge. In the same year a set of letters, revealing the secret of how Chinese porcelain is made, which was the envy of the world and much sought after by kings, was smuggled out of China. Two English aristocrats on The Grand Tour make the acquaintance of Patrick Devlin on the island of Madagascar, a more welcoming place for pirates (of whom William Teach, more commonly known as Blackbeard, was one of the more infamous) than the Caribbean where Woodes Rogers had been sent to clear the island of New Providence in the Bahamas of pirates and to issue The King’s Proclamation Act. The scene is set. The various strands gradually come together, and eventually all is revealed.
The story moves from Madagascar and the Verde islands to the Bahamas and the mainland of America, namely the Carolinas, and gives a good insight into the lives of the pirates, King’s officials and people who made up the beginning of the colonisation of America. The pace is fast and the characterisation is good, while the descriptions of the various groups from the pirates to the poverty stricken inhabitants of New Providence vividly bring the scenes alive.
Once I got into the book I quite enjoyed it but found the first few chapters confusing with the constant change of scene and characters. I had to re-read them more than once in order to sort it out. Better pre-knowledge of the times would have helped, and a glossary of who’s who would have been useful.