Julian Stockwin,
Thomas Kydd #13: Betrayal
(Hodder & Stoughton/McBooks, 2013)

Fresh from a successful invation and conquest of Cape Town in South Africa, a group of British naval and army commanders decide to take on the Spanish in South America.

Historically speaking, this endeavor didn't go so well. Unfortunately for non-historians who didn't know the outcome of this ill-fated invasion of Buenos Aires, the copywriter who penned the text for the back cover decided to let the cat out of the bag: "a popular uprising against the Spanish fails to materialize and the tiny British force finds itself surrounded by massive enemy forces and an angry population beginning to rebel against their liberators!" No sense in letting readers be surprised by the mission's failure, I suppose. But, since its end result doesn't become evident until well into the novel, I kind of wish I hadn't been forewarned that it was doomed to failure.

Otherwise, this is an excellent chapter in the life of Julian Stockwin's hero, Thomas Kydd.

Kydd is tapped early on by Commodore Popham to participate in the venture and, despite some misgivings -- they were, after all, acting without direct orders from the admiralty -- Kydd throws himself into the mission.

Fortunes change as the story unfolds; as revealed by the back cover, the population -- thought to be eager to throw off Spanish rule -- proves reluctant to accept the British in their place, and the royalists and rebels alike join forces to oust them.

Kydd comes up with some pretty good ideas to advance the British cause and, toward the end, slow the advance of their foes, but it's all for naught. It is actually somewhat heartbreaking to read about their valiant efforts to wring victory from an impossible situation.

This isn't the best of the Tom Kydd novels -- it moves a bit too slowly, and far too much of the action takes place on land rather than at sea -- but it's far from the worst. It's another enjoyable tale from Stockwin that has me eager to begin the next.

book review by
Tom Knapp

10 May 2014

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