Blood Will Out (Contraband Shore)

Written by David Donachie
Review by Lynn Guest

1787. Deal, Kent coast. Wounded in a failed attempt to rescue his beloved Betsy from a forced marriage, Captain Edward Brazier then disappears. Not knowing whether he is alive or dead, his crew searches for him, but so do his enemies: Henry, Betsy’s avaricious brother and Hawkins, the organiser of Henry’s Deal smuggling gang. Brazier must rely on ingenuity, luck and his friends if he is to foil Henry’s plans for Betsy and to smash the crime ring. This is the third of the Contraband Shore series featuring Brazier, whom we do not meet until page 174. Consequently, over half the novel rehashes past events as characters reminisce and plot. Very little actually happens until the last third, when the threads begin to come together and the action hots up. A rather flat hero, Brazier is overshadowed by the weak, foolish Henry and by Hawkins, an excellent nasty thug.

A resident of Deal, the author has drawn a colourful picture of the 18th-century seaport and its citizens, not only the few respectable ones but corrupt officials and those scrabbling to survive in a vicious world. Unfortunately, the novel is not easy to read. Meandering sentences sprinkled with dodgy grammar can be irritating, and the pace is slow. The last sentence, however, is so clever that all is forgiven. For fans of the first two books of the series, this one may prove satisfying, but for me, a newcomer, the novel seemed lazy and Brazier was an uninspiring hero.