‘Black Tides’ is fulfilling series entry

Review: “Black Tides” by Jay C. LaBarge

“Black Tides,” by Jay C. LaBarge, is the fourth Nick LaBounty adventure of the series (with a fifth currently in the works). A Tupper Lake native and graduate of Syracuse University, LaBarge spent his professional career in the technology industry but has recently turned to writing historically based adventure/action/detective stories. He has been prolific with the publication of “Aztec Odyssey” in 2020, “Nick LaBounty’s First Discovery” (a coming-of-age story) in 2021, “Apocalypse Atlantis” in 2022 and “Black Tides” earlier this year.

The main characters have all returned in this newest book set in the Golden Age of Piracy. In this adventure, archaeologist Nick’s main mission is finding the Lost Colony of Roanoke which disappeared in 1590, but the search becomes tangled up with the hunt for Blackbeard’s buried treasure and is further complicated by modern-day corporate pirates who are desperate to discover the loot. Nick’s girlfriend, Altsoba of the Navajo and Aztec people, embarks on her own mission to learn more about the elders of the Lumbee tribe of North Carolina who were known to take in anyone who needed a home, no matter their race or ethnicity. Nick’s brother, Charlie, reappears to help solve the mystery along with mentor Dr. Philip Storm and half-wolf, half-husky Din. Three new characters important to solving the mysteries are retired: Duke University professor Max Payne, who is tracing a family connection to the Lost Colony; Director of the Outer Banks History Center Emmanuel Irving, who is searching for an ancestral connection to an escaped slave and member of Blackbeard’s crew; and Captain Finn Kelly, who has methodically searched for Blackbeard’s treasure for years under the guise of running fishing charter tours.

The parallel stories take place in present-day Outer Banks, North Carolina and in 1718 in New Providence. The research includes using a mixture of old-school and high-tech techniques. For example, while Nick combs through books and the internet for information, Max uses specialized equipment to X-ray an old painting full of clues. There are seemingly unconnected discoveries of valuable artifacts worth millions of dollars from the treasure chest, there is scuba diving and encounters with sharks, there are attempts to fatally silence competitors, and there are a few survivors from the past who leave clues for people they never knew would exist in the future.

Nick LaBounty is a modern-day Indiana Jones with perhaps better morals and greater humility. Through his exploits, we learn that among pirates there was a strict code of fairness. Indentured servants, men in debt, men of “quality,” and former slaves were all considered equal. Women had no say, of course, but for the men, this code provided for the equal division of stolen goods, an equal say in where to sail and whom to attack, and an equal vote for choice of leaders. In the past and the present, humans seem drawn to seek out tales about lost memories, ancient legends, good versus evil, and the love of money. “Black Tides” fulfills these desires for the reader.

I recommend reading the books in order. As the characters evolve and you become more attached to them, knowing their individual stories completes their collective story.


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