The greatest naval trial in the Georgian period is underway at Portsmouth with the court-martial of Sir Home Popham, Captain Sir Thomas Kydd's commanding officer in the doomed occupation of Buenos Aires.
Kydd has some sympathy for Popham's unauthorised action, but his support for his former commander leaves him athwart some very influential people in the admiralty. With his frigate L'Aurore unfit for sea, Kydd is given a commission that some hope will destroy his career.
Tyger has recently mutinied, but instead of having her company dispersed around the fleet as is customary, the ship is pressed into immediate service in the North Sea.
Kydd faces a crew still under some malign influence. Enemies aboard and on the high seas are just the start of the problem. Soon he will have to take his untested and untrustworthy crew into the Baltic, and there they will get entangled with Napoleon's invasion of Prussia.
The stakes are desperate, the task seemingly impossible, and the French implacable. But the only way for Kydd to avoid disgrace is to gamble his reputation and crew on a crazy mission to snatch a Prussian division out of the jaws of Napoleon's advancing army.
Will he return home once more a hero or himself face a court-martial?
This book at first threatened to be my favourite of the series and then went on to deliver on that promise. No mean achievement given the quality of what’s gone before. This really is fast-paced and multi-faceted. The court martial the blurb headlines was intelligently and entertainingly observed but was really only the pre-cursor to what followed. At blistering speed we are carried through scandal, mutiny, an epic voyage north, a logistical nightmare and battles against both the enemy and the implacable sea.
Christian Rodska seems to step it up a notch from his previous excellent performances allowing slightly more passion into his already authentic reading. Stockwin’s excellent historical notes at the end give a small window into his undoubtedly tireless research and depth of expertise.
I think most authors would find enough material in this plot to fill at least two books and there is an argument that for example Kydd’s encounter with a French spy and what would have been an incredible journey north might have merited an extra hour between them. I’d have happily lapped it up I am sure. There were things missing that were included in previous episodes. I wasn’t disappointed personally to see no romantic interest but did miss Renzi just a little – surprisingly little!
The only thing I can do is to recommend that if time allows set aside a good two to two and a half hours for the ending of the book. It’s unlikely you’ll feel like putting it down during that time and it will be a very enjoyable session with your headphones I promise!
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