Alexander Kent,
With All Despatch
(Hutchinson, 1988; McBooks, 1999)

Once a frigate captain, Richard Bolitho is reduced in peacetime to seeking what employment the British Navy can offer. In With All Despatch, he is ordered to take command of a "fleet" of three small cutters to patrol the coast and put a halt to smuggling.

It's not an easy task. And, with a lot of people in high and low places looking to make a profit on the illegal trade, it's not a popular one, either.

But Bolitho, still recovering from the lasting effects of a crippling fever and the devastating death of his lady, Viola, is generally up to whatever task confronts him, so long as he has a deck beneath his feet and a star to steer by. Tracking his progress through this novel by Alexander Kent is as entertaining as always -- Kent has an excellent voice for maritime yarns, and a knack for putting readers right at the heart of the action. And, even as Bolitho endeavors to put a halt to the trade in his way, his headstrong coxswain, friend and right-hand man, Allday, puts into action a plan of his own.

It's a bloody resolution, let me tell you.

As if that's not enough, Kent also sends Bolitho on a book-ending mission to secure a French treasure, presently in Holland, to be used to fund a counterrevolution in France. But this task, too, will not be an easy one, and the sea battle that concludes this book is fierce and, in its way, heartbreaking.

Have I made it clear how much I love this series? Of course, now that England is once again at war with France, I expect the next volume will be even better.

book review by
Tom Knapp

22 December 2012

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