Captain Sharkey / Within the Tides

Pirate stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle?  Great idea!  So thought I, when I decided to read The Dealings of Captain Sharkey and Other Tales of Pirates.

The first part of this book is called Tales of Pirates.  I guess I wasn’t counting on serious tales of pirates. Captain Sharkey only features in four stories, but while his gory deeds are mostly referred to and not shown, I got sick of his character and was glad to be done with him.  On the other hand, I liked “A Pirate of the Land”, a non-Sharkey story.

The second part is called Tales of Blue Water.  I had read four of the stories already in a different collection, but they’re all good ones.  “The Striped Chest” and “The Captain of the Polestar” are especially excellent, even on second reading.  My new favorite was “The Fiend of the Cooperage”–great atmosphere, great story. 

Overall, I give this one a 5 out of 5 stars

Mary Celeste engraving
Within the Tides may just be Conrad at his most depressing.  Stylistically, his writing here is brilliant as always, but the stories are pretty dark.  “The Planter of Malata” and “Because of the Dollars” bookend this little collection with the most dreary plots involving murder and/or suicide, and “The Partner” is a close third.  The last one, “The Inn of the Two Witches”, is my favorite, more creepy than depressing.  Altogether, I wouldn’t recommend this book unless you enjoy morbid stories or you’re a Conrad completionist.  3 out of 5 stars.

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