A Flag of Truce
Toulon, 1793. In this fourth John Pearce adventure, our hero, now a naval lieutenant, continues to be a thorn in the flesh of Authority. Admiral Hood acknowledges his skill and bravery but distrusts his egalitarianism (Pearce’s father supported the French Revolution). Pearce has called for the court-martial of Captain Barclay who illegally impressed him and his friends – which he is entitled to do – and Authority would rather it was swept under the carpet.
Admiral Hotham – who owes Barclay money – is in charge of the court-martial and determined to clear him, by perjury if necessary. For this, Pearce must be got out of the way. What better than the difficult and dangerous task of escorting 5000 French, supposedly royalist, sailors back to France?
There are plenty of deeds of derring-do, battles by sea and land, a duel, a storm and a near miss with the guillotine to keep readers hooked. Not to mention Pearce’s growing interest in Barclay’s lovely and increasingly disaffected wife, Emily.
I enjoyed this. Donachie is good at plot and the various strands: the court-martial, Pearce’s exploits and his relationship with Emily, intertwine satisfactorily and help to keep up the tension. I also liked the way that Pearce has his own agenda: we learn something of his republican background, for example, and this gives his character added depth; we understand where he is coming from and why he acts in the way he does. Donachie also succeeds admirably in the difficult job of getting across the political complexities of the time without resorting to lecturing.