A Captive in Algiers

A Muhammad Amalfi Mystery

Fiction - Adventure
232 Pages
Reviewed on 08/16/2023
Buy on Amazon

This author participates in the Readers' Favorite Free Book Program, which is open to all readers and is completely free. The author will provide you with a free copy of their book in exchange for an honest review. You and the author will discuss what sites you will post your review to and what kind of copy of the book you would like to receive (eBook, PDF, Word, paperback, etc.). To begin, click the purple email icon to send this author a private email.

This author participates in the Readers' Favorite Book Review Exchange Program, which is open to all authors and is completely free. Simply put, you agree to provide an honest review an author's book in exchange for the author doing the same for you. What sites your reviews are posted on (B&N, Amazon, etc.) and whether you send digital (eBook, PDF, Word, etc.) or hard copies of your books to each other for review is up to you. To begin, click the purple email icon to send this author a private email, and be sure to describe your book or include a link to your Readers' Favorite review page or Amazon page.

This author participates in the Readers' Favorite Book Donation Program, which was created to help nonprofit and charitable organizations (schools, libraries, convalescent homes, soldier donation programs, etc.) by providing them with free books and to help authors garner more exposure for their work. This author is willing to donate free copies of their book in exchange for reviews (if circumstances allow) and the knowledge that their book is being read and enjoyed. To begin, click the purple email icon to send this author a private email. Be sure to tell the author who you are, what organization you are with, how many books you need, how they will be used, and the number of reviews, if any, you would be able to provide.

Author Biography

AJ Lewis is the pen name of a translator and author born and educated in New England. He writes mysteries to first confound his readers and then astound them. AJ’s fiction aims to describe the world, not to inform it. But if his writing causes people to think about their own world, then maybe he’s accomplished something.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Frank Mutuma for Readers' Favorite

Turiddu had told Ettore of Amalfi that, eventually, he could recognize his capture as a blessing. But how did Ettore find himself in this foreign place as a slave? And will his friend Paul keep his promise to intervene? Ettore had been raised in Amalfi by the good Swallows and had hoped to become a fisherman, just like many people in that part of town. But there was a glitch in joining the trade since it was believed that bastards and "loose" women brought bad luck at sea. Meanwhile, Ettore has an arrangement with Bruno and his father, a waiter, to direct clients to him as a tour guide. To find out how Ettore meets Paul and their survival in the open sea for days before their eventual capture by the pirates, get a copy of A Captive in Algiers by AJ Lewis.

I loved how AJ Lewis subtly passed on the intended message in the cleverly woven plotline of A Captive in Algiers. The book was not only entertaining but also thought-provoking on several issues. I was hooked from the first to the last chapter, and it made me think of whether we should always believe everything we are told and the value of questioning information even from proclaimed experts. Lewis also utilized suspense to great effect, and the vivid descriptions of events and places helped create a mental picture of what was happening. The characters are well-developed, and the reader will also appreciate the easy-to-understand language used in the book, which makes it accessible to all readers. The story is an endless adventure that I enjoyed without leaving my couch, and I can't wait to read something else from this talented author.

Alma Boucher

A Captive in Algiers: A Muhammad Amalfi Mystery is a historically themed adventure by AJ Lewis. Ettore grew up in The House of Beautiful Swallows - a brothel - after his mother died giving birth to him. For someone with his background, it was challenging for Ettore to get a suitable job in Amalfi in the late eighteenth century. The fishermen did not want Ettore on their boats because having a bastard on board was considered to be bad luck. Ettore found a job preparing anchovies, but he could not stand the smell of the fish. Ettore learned from the priests and older guides and discovered that there was value in knowing more than others and using it to his advantage. Ettore quickly established a successful career as a tour guide and managed to save money.

AJ Lewis took me on an exciting adventure in A Captive in Algiers. The story is based on the author’s family history. It was a roller coaster ride of danger, secrets, and history. The plot was excellently planned and executed. The story is fast-paced and filled with suspense and surprises. The tension kept me on the edge of my seat and I could not turn the pages fast enough. Historical facts and fiction were woven together, which added to the success of the story. The descriptions were vivid, and it was easy to visualize the surroundings and events. The characters were authentic and relatable. There are a variety of role players, and they all had unique personalities. The book is brilliantly written and had me captivated until the end.

Grant Leishman

A Captive in Algiers: A Muhammad Amalfi Mystery by AJ Lewis is the first installment of what promises to be a fascinating series of stories about an eighteenth-century orphan who, after being swept out to sea with two of his compatriots, is eventually captured by Algerian pirates and taken to the slave markets of Algiers. Seventeen-year-old Ettore is the son of a prostitute who died in childbirth in Amalfi in southern Italy. Raised by his mother’s coworkers in the local brothel, Ettore is determined to one day leave the town and make a name for himself. With his good friend Bruno, the pair run tours of the local religious highlights and relics. When one of his favorite customers, an English businessman, Paul, asks Ettore to take him out beyond the town’s breakwater to a colleague’s yacht, the adventure begins. Caught in a terrible storm, the trio is swept far out to sea and drift aimlessly in their little rowboat, weak, hungry, and almost at their death until the sea finally deposits them on a small island where they hope they will find sanctuary. Their luck will again run out as they are set upon by Algerian pirates who throw them in their ship’s hold and transport them and their latest conquest to the slave markets of Algiers.

A Captive in Algiers is an intriguing journey into the strange world of eighteenth-century Italy, with its contrast of wealth, power, and total domination of the Catholic Church and the relative poverty, subservience, and obedience to the canon law of the bulk of the villagers. The author has a descriptive style that carries the reader along right beside Ettore’s breathless adventure, first lost at sea, then captive aboard an Algerian pirate ship, and finally in the dungeons, slave market, and souks of Algiers. I particularly enjoyed watching this relatively sheltered and shunned son of a prostitute begin to blossom and show he was more than what so many had labeled him. In many ways, this part of the adventure is a real coming-of-age novel. However, Ettore certainly faced many more trials and tribulations in his young life than any modern teenager would be expected to endure. I enjoyed the underlying theme woven throughout the novel, where Ettore and others were led to question their undying belief and servitude to the Catholic God. When Ettore wondered how there could be so many competing gods and which, if any, was the right one, he echoed the thoughts of many great philosophers, theologians, and even the general populace through the ages. As an introduction to Ettore and his story, this novel awakens interest and evokes the desire to read the next installment of this exciting journey. I can highly recommend this read.

Asher Syed

A Captive in Algiers: A Muhammad Amalfi Mystery by AJ Lewis is set in 18th-century Amalfi, where Ettore grows up influenced by pirate tales and his upbringing in a bordello, forming a deep bond with Bruno and becoming a skilled guide. Ettore's friendship with wealthy Englishman Paul leads to a treacherous boat journey, where they, along with Bruno, battle storms and survive through shared resilience. Adrift at sea, they endure hardships, rationing supplies, and battling exhaustion. They discover a volcanic island, face capture by Saracen pirates, endure captivity on a ship, and reflect on morality and suffering. Organized survival efforts are led by Michele, including communication attempts with the Saracens. Ettore remains calm as they enter Algiers, observing their uncertain fate. Led through the city streets as captives, they finally arrive at the Great Market, where Ettore and his companions' fates as slaves are all but sealed.

A Captive in Algiers by AJ Lewis is a historical fiction novel that hinges on the strength and endurance of both body and spirit in its characters, and it is in the scenes where there is a true struggle for survival and desperate measures to stay alive that the story shines. The characters are all fully developed and their interactions with one another do a good job of revealing their individual personalities, fears, and vulnerabilities, as well as their inherent tenacity. I did find the writing to be a little on the loquacious side and there are some inclusions that come across as simply trying to educate a reader rather than having any real use in moving the story forward, which occasionally hampers the pace. Still, the writing itself is good and Ettore in particular is a character you want to root for. Overall, this is an interesting story and a solid entry into the series.

Essien Asian

Orphaned at an early age and living with his mother's friends at The House of Swallows, Ettore learns the world's ways by working the streets to guarantee a worthwhile future for himself. With the aid of his good friend Bruno, he serves as a guide for the tourists that visit Amalfi and picks up the odd job that may gain him a coin or two extra. When one of his regulars makes a seemingly innocent request, Ettore sees an opportunity for a handsome payout and sets about getting Paul to his destination offshore. Little does he know that his life is about to take a turn for the unexpected in AJ Lewis's A Captive In Algiers.

A Captive In Algiers tells the story of an orphan's adventures in a world of religion, pirates, and slavers on the Barbary Coast. AJ Lewis perfectly captures the aura of that era with his detailed descriptions of the notable Italian cities, townships, and even the people who make the story tick. The conversation between the characters is the icing on the cake as stylish language combined with Lewis's representation of the Algiers landscape in the 18th century will make the reader feel as if they are not just immersed in the novel, but part of history taking place. Lewis draws the reader into drawing their own conclusions on Ettore's actions with the repeated questioning of his treatment of Bruno and the others close to him. From its outset, A Captive In Algiers promises the kind of riveting adventure one can expect from stories of similar orientation to classics such as Treasure Island, which duly delivers on this. Lewis should be lauded for this work of genius.