Julian Stockwin,
(Hodder & Stoughton/McBooks, 2015)

Tom Kydd returns to England -- again, the conquering hero -- only to learn at Plymouth that his valiant frigate L'Aurore is succumbing to squishy rot in her lower beams. Fortunately, our captain isn't ashore for long before he's given a bigger, newer, more valiant frigate, as yet unnamed, although he has to wait a few weeks before it's ready to sail.

Alas, that dream is quickly scuttled. After testifying at the court-martial of Rear Admiral Home Popham for his part in a failed South American expedition, Kydd blathers in public against the Admiralty for its actions -- and, in disgrace, he is assigned instead to Tyger, an unhappy frigate whose crew recently mutinied, and sent to northern seas for a dreary, career-ending cruise.

For a while, at least, readers -- to say nothing of Kydd's officers and crew -- are forced to contend with his temper, which comes to the fore when his luck runs sour. (Readers will recall the long-lasting rage that dominated his adventures after the death of his fiancee many volumes ago.)

But, against all odds -- unless you're a fan of the series and know Kydd's penchant for lucky outcomes -- he succeeds at a number of high profile missions, sussing out a Russian port, derailing an international fur-smuggling operation, delivering much-needed supplies to beleaguered Prussian troops and besting French frigates in a 3-1 match during a desperate evacuation mission.

Once again beyond the reach of his enemies at the Admiralty and reaping the acclaim of the general public, Kydd can rest assured he has plenty adventures ahead.

book review by
Tom Knapp

22 April 2017

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