Dewey Lambdin,
The King's Privateer
(Fawcett, 1992; Ballantine, 1996)

Alan Lewrie's future looks bleak, ashore on half pay in lieu of a naval war and on the run from a cuckolded husband with a long reach, when he finds himself employed on a clandestine mission to the East Indies.

Posing as a merchant vessel, Lewrie and the captain and crew of the Telesto are secretly patroling for the pirates who are attacking British traders in the South China Sea. While they suspect locals are at the heart of the attacks, they also fear the French are behind them -- but, lacking a formal declaration of war, they must tread carefully to avoid sparking a diplomatic disaster.

Further complicating Lewrie's mission is the presence of his estranged father -- the man who, in the first book of Dewey Lambdin's series, plotted Lewrie's disgrace so he could disinherit him and bundle him off into the navy. While the elder officer is still not what you'd call a good man, he is now much more fully developed, and readers can appreciate his better qualities a little more than before.

Overall, I enjoyed this book less than the previous novels in the series. It is at times too slow-moving, more cat-and-mouse than action. But that's not to say action is missing entirely, and the climax is pretty thrilling stuff -- leaving Lewrie with a disfigured nemesis who I can only guess will reappear in future tales.

book review by
Tom Knapp

18 April 2015

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