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by Eli Brown

Pub Date: June 4th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-374-12366-6
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

A novel of pirates in 1819.

Owen Wedgwood has a good job as a chef for Lord Ramsey when the latter’s house is broken into by Hannah Mabbot, captain of the Flying Rose. For obscure reasons—obscure at least to Wedgewood, who narrates the story—she murders Ramsey in cold blood and has her pirate minion Mr. Apples kidnap Wedgewood, for she’s thrilled to discover he’s a cook; it’s been difficult to have fine dining aboard a pirate ship. While distressed to have been captured, Wedgwood is even more upset to discover he’s expected every Sunday to create culinary masterpieces from the thin gruel (as it were) of the ship’s store, but somehow he manages. For example, he’s able to create yeast bread by holding the rising dough against the warmth of his belly. At first, he ekes out acceptable meals, but as he’s able to raid the ship’s larder and occasionally get provisions in untoward ways, his Sunday meals become ever more creative and spectacular. Eventually, he turns out delicacies such as “Herring pâté with rosemary on walnut bread. Tea-smoked eel ravioli seared with caramelized garlic and bay leaf...and rum-poached figs stuffed with Pilfered Blue cheese and drizzled with honey.” But Captain Mabbot is not interested solely in fine cuisine: She’s on a quest to track down the Brass Fox, another villainous pirate who turns out to be her son—and whose father is none other than Lord Ramsey. It seems that Ramsey’s business concern, the Pendleton Trading Company, is deeply involved in the opium trade, hauling the illicit drug from India to China, and Captain Mabbot wants to put a stop to it.

Brown is able to make his narrative both sizzling and swashbuckling.