Seth Hunter,
The Flag of Freedom
(Headline, 2012; McBooks, 2016)

It begins, not with a naval captain, but with a former nun, of sorts, fleeing Venice to escape the invading French army. She and her chum, the daughter of an American ambassador, are captured by pirates off the shores of the Barbary Coast ... and they end up in a harem.

Then our hero, Captain Nathaniel Peake, makes an appearance in Gibraltar. However, Peake has lost his ship, his undercover efforts against the French are shrouded in secrecy, and the intelligence he brought -- suggesting that the French plan to invade Egypt, not England -- is cast into doubt.

Far from being given a new ship, Peake is cast into prison for his troubles -- where he languishes for several months, until a secret mission -- at the behest of the Americans, although sanctioned by the British admiralty -- secures his release.

Soon, Peake is back at sea and en route to -- I bet you can guess -- the Barbary Coast.

Although rescuing a nun and a politician's daughter aren't included in his orders, you can be sure Peake will cross their path at some point. There are some battles here -- including a very clever stratagem for defeating a foe in shallow waters -- but the real payoff here is the famous Battle of the Nile.

Peake finds himself at the battle with Rear-Admiral Horatio Nelson himself onboard the flagship Vanguard.

The battle was of course cunningly fought -- and at great risk of failure. Author Seth Hunter here portrays Nelson as a man on the sharp edge of madness, driven to succeed and crazed by the thought that the French had slipped through his fingers. Peake, sadly, is at best an observer for this great sea battle.

The Flag of Freedom keeps a great many balls in the air as various plotlines entwine. It's an exciting read ... and leaves us on the threshold of the next book in the series. Which I am quite eager to start.

book review by
Tom Knapp

23 September 2017

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