The second book in the Clockwork Century series. Or rather a novella.

Publication year: 2010
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Dina Perlman, Victor Bevine
Running Time: 5 hrs and 46 minute

Pirate captain Croggon Beauregard Hainey’s ship has been stolen and he and his small crew are chasing it in a smaller aircraft. Hainey swears bloody vengeance on the Free Crow’s stealer, red-headed Felton Brink, who has had the temerity to rename the craft Clementine and is using it as a legal transport. Hainey has only two crewmen, Lemar and Symian, who are loyal only to him. Hainey is is an escaped slave and a notorious pirate. He carries the Rattler, a huge gun which a smaller man can’t even carry, and he uses it when he has to.

Maria Isabella Boyd is a former Southern spy. Unfortunately, this has made her famous and so she isn’t able to get any more work. She’s also in her forties, a widow, and a divorcée so she accepts any work she can get. In this case, she’s hired by the Pinkerton detective agency. Maria is the first woman the agency has hired and so she has a lot of prove. Her first mission is to make sure that Clementine gets safely to her destination. Captain Hainey is known to chaise the ship and Pinkerton lets Maria decide what to do about the pirate; kill him, capture him, or let him go free.

The book is set during the war between the Union and the Confederacy but in this world the war has been going on for 20 years. The characters are from Confederacy and have worked for it. Maria especially loathes the Union and working for it but she’s a realist. And she’s a woman at a time when it’s still not really proper for a white woman to work, especially when she’s at an age when she should be at home popping out kids. Even though the pirate crew, all black men, are able to move more freely in the Union, they still face a lot of racism.

Considering the books shortness, it’s quite verbose with various descriptions and it could have been easily cut down further.

Captain Hainey starts off as a sort of rogue but seems to be decent enough. Unfortunately, his bloodthirsty reputation is well deserved. The only thing he cares about is getting his ship back and he will do anything to get it.

Maria is loyal to the Confederacy and resents the Union. She spends a lot of time justifying her new job which felt unnecessary to me. She’s manipulative and especially skillful at manipulating men, but of course she has to be. At the start of the story, it’s well established that she isn’t beautiful which is great compared to all the “flawless skin” beauties running around pretty much every genre. Unfortunately, some men were rather rude about it. However, for a long-time spy she trusts people quickly and we never hear her thoughts about slavery even though Hainey is a former slave.

The novella contains a lot of action scenes especially later in the book and there isn’t even a hint of romance in it (great!). However, some things, and people, where a bit too convenient.

Perlman narrates the chapters which are from the point-of-view of Maria and Bevine narrates the chapters which are from the point-of-view of Hainey. They narrate together only when these two characters are in the same chapter and the Perlman narrates only Maria’s dialog and Beive Hainey’s dialog. This worked for me fine.