An Ill Wind


It is always awkward when you start reading a series several books in, and it took me some time to work out what was going on in An Ill Wind, set around the Royal Navy’s withdrawal from Toulon in 1793. Lieutenant John Pearce and his three companions, ‘the pelicans’, have been illegally press-ganged into the Navy, drawn into the rivalry between two leading admirals and threatened by the machinations of the villainous Captain Ralph Barclay. Where Horatio Hornblower’s superiors were generally decent men, and Hornblower managed to remain on reasonable terms with them, senior officers in An Ill Wind are sharply divided between goodies and baddies, and Barclay and his dubious adherents are determined to rid the Navy of the troublesome pelicans.

Mr Donachie has clearly done his research, and his action scenes read well, as do his depictions of a storm at sea and fire on board a wooden ship. However, I found myself unconvinced by the villainy of the villains, and, more seriously, by Pearce’s being a Lieutenant without having served the normal six years at sea and passed a demanding examination and when it must be only too obvious to his brother officers that he has very little idea what he’s doing. But I’ll look out for the earlier books in the series to fill the gaps, and it is obvious that Mr Donachie has another volume on the stocks.

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