Seth Hunter,
The Spoils of Conquest
(Headline, 2013; McBooks, 2017)

In the main cabin of HMS Vanguard, Horatio Nelson -- fresh from a decisive victory over the French -- pens a letter to set the events of The Spoils of Conquest in motion. He sends one of his captains, Nathan Peake, to Bombay to deliver the news of his success at the Nile and warn that Bonaparte's army is en route to India. He puts Peake at the disposal of the East India Company to salvage what it can from the ill-protected region.

And soon, Peake is heading across the desert with a caravan of camels. Peake doesn't like camels. Or bandits, which frequent those parts.

Eventually, however, he achieves his goal and finds himself in command of a small fleet of East India-owned vessels. And, although he's not acting in an official capacity of the British navy, he finds himself acting in the nation's best interests as he cooperates with troops commanded by a not-yet-famous Arthur Wellesley and leads a dramatic action against the French.

Plot twists range from a potential romance with a former nun, some questionable shenanigans on the part of the East India Company, and strange behavior from a Zoroastrian lieutenant in his command. There's even time to tug on a few familiar strings, such as the diverse lives of Peake's parents as well as his former lover, Sara, whom the bold captain seems incapable of questioning directly about their future.

This is the sixth novel in the Peake series by Seth Hunter (aka Paul Bryers), and in some ways it feels like it might be the last. I hope not, as the character is immensely likable and his adventures have a certain flair that sets them apart from his counterparts, such as Hornblower, Aubrey, Ramage and Bolitho. Hunter has a strong, brisk, colorful way of approaching his tales, and I hope he has more to come.

book review by
Tom Knapp

4 November 2017

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