ccasionally the right book comes along at the right time. I was out of sorts at a family gathering without a book. Pull this off my late father’s shelf. Started to read. And sea stories, like cowboy stories, deliver a certain comfort. And I found this book very comforting.
In this, during the 1790s while the war with France wages, Lieutenant Charles Hayden, desperately seeking a ship, finds himself banished to the worst of the line, the Themis, with an unenviable task. Admiralty thinks Captain Hart is faint-of, i.e. shirking his job. And they want Hayden to secretly report on him. Nowadays, in this world of corporate backstabbing, this seems a sad norm. Back then, it was a traitorous act, a black stain. But Hayden, with no other choices, accepts.
And so the Themis sails with the captain indisposed (kidney stone, I feel for him) and mutiny murmured before the mast. Hart eventually recovers, just in time to prevent the crew from picking off a nice set of prizes (declaring the two frigates, even though they are hull down and have turned to run at the sight of the Themis’s topgallants). But Hayden, seeking to carry the war to the French and finding windows of command opportunity with Hart’s medical infirmities, takes a transport just under the port guns of Brest, a handy operation. But it’s too little, too late. Hart orders an innocent man flogged, the crew erupts into rebellion, the ship is taken, and now it’s up to Hayden (away on a prize ship) to run down the mutineers and bring them to justice (a justice that will entrap him, as well).
So, yes, great book, the first of a series. If you are a member of the Hornblower Book Club, this one’s for you.