From start to finish, and from stem to stern, Broos Campbell’s Peter Wicked is carried happily forward by the witty narrator Matty Graves. Acting Lieutenant Graves, in service to the infant U.S. Navy, is recovering from his wounds and imprisonment on Saint-Domingue. This third book in the Matty Graves series begins with Graves contemplating the fact that, as he relates, “It had recently come to my attention that I was a bastard and a Negro.” When he is recalled to America to give an account of the loss of his previous ship and her captain, Lieutenant Graves confronts the planter and government elite, and his own Puritanical relations.
Affairs ashore and glimpses of post-Revolutionary Baltimore and Washington are related with Matty Graves’s unique flair, but a commission involving the honor of a fellow officer and ex-shipmate, and possible piracy and treason, is thrown his way as a task no one else cares to undertake. Peter Wicked is a fine sea story, an adventure complete with nautical detail, sword-fighting fun, and an unconventional love interest. Besides all of this, it has a charming, resourceful and engaging narrator in Lieutenant Graves. Campbell gives us a glimpse of the United States during America’s quasi-war with France, and a feeling that we would be proud to have such a seafaring ancestor as Matty Graves.