A Close Run Thing

Written by David Donachie
Review by Niels Frandsen

This, the fifteenth of the John Pearce novels, is set in 1796 with Lieutenant Pearce and his companion Samuel Oliphant trying to get back from France, where they had been sent on a secret mission. After some trouble, they succeed, but have to do it separately. Back in England Pearce is given a new mission in the Mediterranean as well as a ship. But the previous captain takes his crew with him, so Pearce has to drill and exercise a new crew of landsmen. At the same time Emily Barclay, the mother of his child, is trying to recover money owed to her late husband by his prize agent.

As usual Donachie is entertaining, and the narrative flows on easily. The problem of making a crew of landlubbers into sailors is well described, and in more detail than usual in such novels. On the other hand, though Emily collects evidence and gets nearer her goal, the end of that problem is rather abrupt. It feels as if the author had to finish that story in the present volume but was running out of space. However, that is a minor point, and fans can look forward to many more volumes in the series.