David Donachie,
The Privateersman Mysteries No. 3: A Hanging Matter
(Macmillan, 1991; McBooks, 2001)

Having thoroughly enjoyed the first two volumes of David Donachie's Privateersman Mysteries series, I was eagerly looking forward to the next three books in the ongoing saga of Harry Ludlow, a former British naval captain who lost his commission for refusing to apologize for a duel between officers.

A Hanging Matter, the third book in the series, was a bit of a letdown, but only a bit.

It starts with Ludlow, along with his brother James and his servant Pender, returning to England as passengers on another man's ship. Set adrift in the English Channel, they are later witnesses to a brutal attack and murder -- which makes them targets of the squeaky-voiced man who led the assault.

There is a misguided attack on Ludlow's home estate and a bundle of intrigue in the nearby town, where smugglers run rampant. But, while Donachie's voice remains strong and his primary cast interesting, this book falters with the introduction of too many loosely connected characters, whose ties and motivations are often unclear.

I recommend this book to anyone who has enjoyed the series so far, but it is, I hope, merely a step on the way to better stuff to come -- preferably with Ludlow at sea, where he belongs.

book review by
Tom Knapp

5 July 2014

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