Dudley Pope,
Nicholas Ramage #17: Ramage & the Saracens
(Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd., 1988; McBooks, 2002)

Nicholas Ramage, captain of His Majesty's frigate Calypso, runs afoul of two massive French ships of the line in the Mediterranean and, against all odds, disables them without a shot fired.

Ramage then encounters a pair of French frigates and, in a running battle, manages to defeat them both. And, although a jealous admiral manages to redirect both the credit and the prize money for the victories to another captain, circumstances again play out in Ramage's favor to the extent that no one wins.

Ramage, the brainchild of author Dudley Pope, is a very lucky man. In Ramage & the Saracens, he'll need that luck when he faces a fleet of Saracen pirates who are raiding the coastal villages of southern Italy -- and again when he's ordered, with a very small fleet of ships, to lead a daring raid and rescue mission in the Saracen heartland.

This book stands out in the long-running series for the sheer audacity of Ramage's victories in the opening chapters, and then the unusual nature of his later assignments. Matching wits with his counterparts in the French navy is one thing, but heathen pirates is a whole different kettle of fish -- and a raid on a pirate stronghold is a bold task indeed.

Pope can sometimes be a little repetitive in his narrative, but he tells a good tale and his characters are memorable people. This type of naval action is the reason I keep coming back to these books, time and time again. Sadly, that pleasure is nearly at an end, as this is the penultimate book of the series.

book review by
Tom Knapp

5 August 2017

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