Review by Frank Plowright
Barracuda began very strongly indeed with a very good set-up in Slaves offering all the yo-ho-ho and derring-do you’d expect from a pirate series, but then meandered away into unconvincing plots that pulled the rug at every opportunity. There were surprises, but at the cost of narrative credibility.
At the end of Cannibals feared pirate the Red Hawk was returning to Puerto Blanco, control of which had recently been seized from the governor. Also on their way were just as feared emissaries acting for the Spanish crown, determined to retrieve a lost jewel, and what part does the Barracuda and it’s now greatly reduced crew still have left to play? Well, this being the concluding volume, Jean Dufaux at least can’t resort to to just switching everything around again, he has to provide some resolution. He does, and it’s very cinematic, but as over the past few volumes not very convincing. That’s partly because convenience again plays a part, partly because some established cast are almost ignored, and also because eleven pages before the end Dufaux decides to throw in a completely anomalous element of great power. There’s no other word for it but ‘mince’.
Once again Jérémy Petiqueux is the star turn, single handedly raising the rating. The script calls for naval battles in the mist, and as seen by the sample page, his level of detail is astonishing. He doesn’t quite maintain that throughout Deliverance, but neither does he let anyone down, and with an even broader cast than in previous books he ensures everyone can be distinguished. Checking back on the opening book it can be seen how much he’s developed as an artist, and it’s not as if he was poor to begin with. He only uses his first name, but Jérémy is someone to look out for now he’s no longer stuck on Barracuda.
On the other hand, Dufaux’s work on Barracuda has mirrored the life cycle of a car. It runs nice and smoothly when new, but problems gradually manifest. Eventually it develops an eccentricity and keeps breaking down until the point it’s beyond repair, and that’s what we’ve reached in Deliverance.