This may be the best of the Bolitho series so far. Bolitho is wed and his 74-gun ship-of-the-line Hyperion goes into dry dock for a refit, including a new copper bottom, removing the forest of weed from her hull which has accumulated during her years of continuous service, slowing her down considerably.
Then, after six-months of a complete refit, she is ordered to blockade duty off France, and seconded to the command of Commodore (the lowest flag rank) Mathias Pelham-Martin, who proves to be an incompetent, egotistical officer who holds his rank only because of political influence ashore, and whose superior holds an old grudge against him.
I suspect that Kent uses these plots which include incompetent, unfeeling superior officers because virtually all of his adult readers have experienced such leadership at one time or other, rather than because the British Navy was rife with them. Certainly in the U.S. Navy, the superiors I served under were virtually all competent and dedicated officers. The incompetents get weeded out by the system rather rapidly. But the stories all seem to revolve around the Queegs and Blighs, as if they were common phenomenon. And every office, factory or warehouse knows of a supervisor who has been promoted because of politics or the "Peter principle," or an incompetent female who has slept her way to the top.
In this story, Kent takes us again on a chase to the West Indies and back, with lots of sea action, drama between him and his brother, Hugh, and nephew, and other twists of plot.
As usual, he breathes life into his characters and the story holds you spellbound. On one occasion, I kept reading until 2:00 a.m., and my wife was hollering at me. You should love this one!
Joseph (Joe) Pierre, USN(Ret)
author of Handguns and Freedom...their care and maintenance
and other books