THE REQUIEM SHARK by Nicholas Griffin


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Exciting, and occasionally gruesome, debut swashbuckler that replaces Hollywood conventions of swordplay and

melodramatic revenge with brutally frank historical realism. We shouldn't pity poor William Williams. The highly educated, overweight Welsh lad had one too many at a dockside

English tavern and woke up aboard a British slaveship, where his ability to play the fiddle gets him out of the most miserable

shipboard labors. While off the coast of west Africa, the ship is raided by the brooding, taciturn pirate Bartholomew "Black

Bart" Roberts, a peculiar fop who prefers to take ships without a fight (but won't hesitate to slaughter a ship's inhabitants if

he meets resistence), dresses in ludicrous finery and drinks cold tea instead of ale or rum. The illiterate Roberts takes Williams

aboard to entertain the crew, and act as a factotum who will record his obsessive quest for the Juliet, a merchant ship that a

crustier crewman likens to "the fairest maiden . . . [with] the constitution of a highlander and the speed of a burned cat." So

begins a kind of Billy Bathgate—story on the high seas, as Roberts—assisted by Aged Q, unflappable ship's surgeon Dr.

Scudamore, and a oddly mystical escaped slave named Innocent who has memorized the New Testament and The Odyssey (he

thinks they describe the same god)—shows how the pirate life was anything but carefree. Storms, battles, disease, and other

calamities rapidly burn away Williams's baby fat, and, within months, a boy of 20 feels himself a man, though he clearly lacks

the maturity to understand the emotional isolation that Roberts must maintain to keep his command. Though the historical

Roberts was reputed to be the most skillful pirate of the 18th century, taking some four hundred ships in four years, Griffin

animates his tale with a discomforting sense of dread, as every victory brings Williams and his captain closer to their doom.

Plenty of action and horrific thrills, without a salty clich‚ in sight. A splendid debut.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-375-50336-6
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Villard
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2000


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