Alexander Kent,
Richard Bolitho #22: Cross of St. George
(William Heinemann Ltd., 1996;
McBooks, 2001)

After the disappointment of For My Country's Freedom, which suffered from too little action and too much wistful longing, I approached Cross of St. George with some trepidation. Had Alexander Kent (nee Douglas Reeman) run out of steam? Was this lengthy series about the bold seaman Richard Bolitho -- now an admiral in the British navy -- grinding to a sorry end?

Fortunately, no.

This isn't the best of the series by far; Bolitho, whose career we have followed since his days as a midshipman, is less exciting now that he's risen so far up the chain of command. He deals with more bureaucracy than sea battles -- although he does still get into the thick of things more often, I suspect, than most admirals were wont to do those days.

Plus, now that the admiral is happily ensconced in a relationship with his mistress, there's too much maudlin desire acting as a sea anchor on the novel's pace. Even his nephew, Adam Bolitho, who was seemingly introduced to keep a frigate captain at the forefront of the narrative, is now spending most of his time in the doldrums of romance. Ugh! Give me some cannonfire, will you?

Cross of St. George definitely provides an uptick in the action. It's 1813, and Bolitho spends most of the book in the vicinity of Halifax so he can deal with pesky American privateers, as well as troop movements by sea. Unlike some novels in the series, there's no specific antagonist who looms just over the horizon, but Bolitho and his happy few -- the officers and sailors closest to him, many of whom have been with him through countless adventures -- have plenty to do, and there's plenty of broadsides to keep your blood roaring.

There are about a half-dozen more books to go in this series. I'm happy to say, I'm still looking forward to reading them.

book review by
Tom Knapp

15 July 2017

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