Seth Hunter,
The Winds of Folly
(McBooks, 2016)

Nathan Peake doesn't spend too much time at sea in this, the fourth book in the series by Seth Hunter.

His adventures this time around place him and the crew of the frigate Unicorn in and around the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas, where Peake is sent on a mission to try and procure the dormant Venetian navy for Britain, which is struggling in the face of increasing naval aggression from France, Spain and Holland. To accomplish this, Peake adopts the guise of an American merchant captain, although his facade doesn't fool everyone.

The mission places him in a variety of unusual circumstances, including shepherding a shipful of uppercrust prostitutes, attending a masked ball at a nunnery-brothel, surviving a loathesome Venice dungeon and interrogation, and enjoying a secret assignation with the formidable Lady Emma Hamilton, who -- fortunately for Peake -- has not yet become embroiled with Commodore Horatio Nelson.

Before the story's end, Peake will make his way into the inner circle of Napoleon Bonaparte himself, as the would-be conquerer strives to place all of Italy under his thumb.

There are sea battles and land battles, culminating in the pivotal naval encounter off Cape St. Vincent (which, I thought, deserved a bit more narrative attention than it received). Peake is, to my mind, no Hornblower or Aubrey, Ramage or Bolitho -- but his stories make good reading, and Hunter (aka Paul Bryers, an award-winning novelist) has a solid grasp of the genre.

I look forward to the next book in the series.

book review by
Tom Knapp

17 September 2016

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