Peter Wicked, the third of Broos Campbell's Matty Graves novels, finds young Graves battered - physically and emotionally - from his involvement in the war in Haiti. Desperately in need of time to heal from his ordeal, he is sent back to the United States. His enemies in Washington, however, misrepresent events in Haiti and Matty finds himself stripped of his acting lieutenancy and on the beach. Back in Baltimore, he has time to come a little closer to understanding the mysteries surrounding his birth and the strained relations among his family members. Matty also visits his friend's plantation on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and finds he can no longer muster any sympathy for fatuous landowners who treat their slaves with cold cruelty.

Matty finally musters enough influence to be reinstated in the Navy and is sent back to Haiti. There he is charged with a delicate mission. He is to bring to heel a mysterious American pirate.

In an adventure abounding in false flags, fictitious identities and treason, Matty struggles to clear up the problem without compromising his honor, the good name of the US Navy or American political interests. As in the first two books, Matty has to discern truth from lies, friend from foe and help from betrayal. Since he also has to protect American shipping, fight the French and avoid open conflict with the increasingly hostile British, there is plenty of opportunity for action, and Campbell does not disappoint.

As ever, Campbell's ear for dialogue, his attention to language and his limpid prose make for pleasurable reading. It's especially fun to get the story through Matty's occasionally disingenuous aw-shucks persona. Matty the narrator is quick to share his opinions, observations and feelings, but he keeps his conclusions to himself. He has flashes of insight as he moves closer to the center of both Peter Wickett's and his own mysteries, but the reader must be attentive lest they go by unremarked. No bells and whistles, no fireworks, just an oblique question or remark, followed by a thoughtful silence.

While it is possible to read the first three Matty Graves novels as stand-alones, I don't recommend it. The three books form a single narrative and are best enjoyed and appreciated if read together and in order. I can only hope that Broos Campbell is not content to let the Matty Graves saga end with this trilogy. 

Description of: Peter Wicked

Author: Broos Campbell

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© 2008-2017 David Hayes (Astrodene)