top of page

Reviews - The Prodigal

Historical Novel Society 

(Direct link)

During the late 17th century on the Atlantic Ocean, primarily in the West Indies, pirates roam the high seas looking for plunder while causing misery and death wherever they sail. As a young boy, John Mallory and his mother are on board a merchant ship sailing to the English colonies in America. Attacked by pirates led by James Logan, his mother is kidnapped. John is then mistaken as one of the pirate crew by his rescuers and sent to Newgate Prison in England. After seven years in prison, upon reaching the age of twenty-one, the young man seeks revenge for his mother's kidnapping. In his search for Logan, he changes his Christian name to Jack and meets a young woman named Maria Cordero, who also seeks revenge for the death of her father at the hands of Logan. With the help of a former pirate and cell-mate, he assembles his own pirate crew, finds a ship, and sails the Caribbean to search for and rescue his mother.


This novel is the first in a series. Keogh has done an exceptional job in creating a character that has the potential to be an exciting, realistic hero of the 17th century. The story is fast paced, and her knowledge of maritime lingo during the Age of Sail is historically accurate. An excellent read and highly recommended.



(Direct link)

Captain Jack Mallory makes his nautical fiction debut in The Prodigal by Susan Keogh, a taut sea thriller set in the late seventeenth century against hte Golden Age of Piracy.


As a thirteen-year-old English lad called John, Mallory is bound from London to America's Carolina coast with his parents aboard the ship Dolphin. The voyage is the adventure of his young life.


Two days from Carolina, John climbs the shrouds, enraptured by "the sway of the mast, its slight strain and gentle moan, the low song of the rigging," when he spies whales--and a mysterious sail in the haze off the larboard quarter.


The boy's romantic notions about a pirate ship soon become a terrible nightmare when the shadowy ship--a pirate brig under the command of Irishman James Logan--attacks the defenseless Dolphin.


In the aftermath, John's father is murdered, while he and his mother, Ella, are taken prisoner aboard Logan's brig Horizon.


When the brig is caught at anchor off an island by a British frigate, Logan is ashore with a small party and Ella. Despite John's pleas, he is swept up along with Logan's crew, taken prisoner aboard the Royal Navy vessel. Logan and Ella watch from shore as the Horizon and frigate set sail for England, where John is imprisoned.


Seven years later, a "haggard, hollow-eyed, gaunt young man" called Jack Mallory steps into a dark, smoke-veiled sailors' den in the Caribbean, fresh from the damp miasma of Newgate Prison in London, looking for information that will lead him to his father's killer and his mother's kidnapper.


Obsessed with seeking revenge against Logan, Mallory is soon caught up in a stormy relationship with a fiery young woman, who also has a score to settle with the pirate.


Gathering an unsavory crew--including a determined Maria--Mallory "acquires" a ship of his own, the brig Prodigal. When Logan's suspected whereabouts surface, the chase is on from the West Indies to the Carolina coast in the American colonies. The stakes are raised when Jack learns of a woman living with Logan. Could she be his mother?


Susan Keogh writes with an edge as sharp as a cutlass, slashing away any whimsical ideas of piracy, with a clear grasp of ships, seamanship and historical detail. By the book's unexpected finale, there's but one question to ask: what's next for Captain Jack Mallory?



Historic Naval Fiction

(Direct Link)

With solid plot lines and multi-dimensional characters, S.K. Keogh's first novel is a definite winner. Set mostly afloat in the Caribbean during the 'age of sail' it weaves several threads into an engrossing story that will be satisfying to lovers of historic sail fiction without being unduly technical for a casual reader. The author has created a believable world inhabited by a fascinating, disparate bunch of lead characters who command the reader's sympathy despite their darker sides.


No real surprises plot-wise perhaps, but it is a good story well told. You can't have a pirate novel without at least some swash-buckling, but most of the plot is concerned with situation and character development leading to a climactic showdown with a sting in its tail! In my opinion, Keogh has the balance just right and I was so enthralled that I was unprepared for the end, but it has clearly been set up for a sequel. Can't wait!

Pirates and Privateers

(Direct Link)

At thirteen, John Mallory witnesses the unthinkable – his father murdered, his mother kidnapped by pirates – but when the Royal Navy encounters some of the pirates, he’s taken into custody and imprisoned in Newgate prison for seven long years. He survives those horrors with the help of Smitty, a real pirate, and a vow to someday kill Captain James Logan and rescue his mother from the villain’s clutches. Upon his release, John (now called Jack) winds up in a tavern on Tortuga, but finding Logan proves tougher than he expects, for the pirate is elusive and disappears for months at a time.


Maria Cordero serves the pirates who visit her father’s tavern on Tortuga. When her father can’t pay his gambling debt to Logan, the pirate shoots him. Avenging her father’s death becomes paramount and Maria bides her time until the right moment comes. In the meantime, she nurses one of Logan’s men back to health. Stephen risked his life to save hers and he loves her, but Maria sees him only as a friend.


Jack eventually comes searching for Maria, in hopes that she can provide the final piece of information he needs to track down Logan. Against his better judgment, Maria joins his crew, which consists of Smitty and Stephen, and they sail to Port Royal to sign on more men. But these new recruits, who seem more piratical than honest seamen, aren’t told where Jack intends to sail. Then there’s Stephen to contend with, as jealousy rears its head as the attraction between Jack and Maria grows.


Will the new recruits remain loyal to Jack when they discover the truth, or will they join with Logan to defeat Jack and his friends? Once he locates the fiendish pirate, will he still find his mother alive? Will he and Maria finally get the revenge they crave? Will love triumph or will experiences of the past forever drive a wedge between Jack and Maria?


Although a specific date isn’t provided, the story is set during the days of the Buccaneers, but after Henry Morgan dies. Keogh deftly spins a realistic tale where pirates are anything but romantic, but each is three dimensional with good and bad traits that also make them human. Had she not included Smitty, readers might find it a stretch to believe that Jack, who has little experience in sailing, can captain a ship, but with his help and Jack’s thirst for knowledge, his growth from landlubber to master rings true and presents a variety of challenges that force him to become a leader of men. Keogh’s research is evident, even down to the cloth ribbon around Smitty’s neck that holds his brace of pistols. Logan comes across with the same legendary aura that surrounded Blackbeard, both as a pirate and a “reformed” pirate. With intricate twists, Keogh never allows the reader to figure out what will happen in the end, which makes The Prodigal a gem that is sure to satisfy all pirate aficionados.

bottom of page