Vancouver author Linda Bailey, a two-time winner of the Crime Writers of Canada’s Arthur Ellis Award for her funny, fast-paced Stevie Diamond mysteries, delivers a resonant, well-paced middle-grade adventure in Seven Dead Pirates.
When Lewis Dearborn’s great-grandfather passes away, he and his eclectic parents inherit Shornoway, a seaside mansion. Lewis soon discovers that the ghosts of seven dead pirates haunt his new bedroom, and that they need his help to reclaim their ship from the local museum. But Lewis is serious and shy, and commanding this group of gruesome, scowling pirates is daunting. It’s almost as intimidating as talking to his sixth-grade peers at school, or dealing with Seth, the schoolyard bully. Nevertheless, Lewis feels a mysterious tie to this odd group of pirates, and a great responsibility to help them out.
Bailey knows how to pace a story. She hooks her readers early with perplexing tidbits like Great-Granddad’s last words and a tower room full of old toys that elicits a cool, prickly feeling. By the time Bailey reveals Lewis’s social challenges, readers are firmly on his side, having accompanied him on the unfolding mystery at Shornoway. The author progressively raises the stakes, making it increasingly difficult for both Lewis and the pirates to achieve their inextricably linked desires, and challenging Lewis to stand his ground.
Nods to Peter Pan and Treasure Island add literary depth, with Lewis finding inspiration for his ultimate triumph in the character of fearless, decisive problem-solver Jim Hawkins. Seven Dead Pirates is an adventure story with a touch of mystery that middle graders are sure to enjoy.