Enemies at Every Turn

Written by David Donachie
Review by Neville Firman

This is yet another instalment of the story of John Pierce, the radical son of a radical preacher and pamphleteer. Avid readers of the series will remember that he was illegally pressed into the Navy along with his three comrades, known collectively as the ‘Pelicans’, by the ongoing villain of the series, Ralph Barclay. Barclay continues to prosper, and two of the ‘Pelicans’ once again find themselves aboard his ship. But Pierce at last begins to find some happiness with Emily, Barclay’s estranged wife.

At times I found the unravelling of the various threads of the plot frustrating in that they tended to hold up the main story, but my interest in the central character did not flag. Pierce – originally a believer in the French Revolution, but alienated by its excesses – is given a command by Pitt and again sent on a mission, this time to contact the leaders of the rebellion in the Vendee, where the situation is complicated by the discovery of his ex-mistress among the rebels. But the rebellion is a disaster and Pierce must retreat, ex-mistress in tow. What will happen when she meets Emily? And what has happened to the two ‘Pelicans’ aboard Barclay’s ship, badly damaged in a great naval engagement, which the British have won? And these are not the only problems which await Pierce on his return.

Anyone unfamiliar with the earlier books might find themselves all at sea, though Donachie does insert the necessary explanations. But it might be best to start with the very first in the series. For myself, I can’t wait until the next episode.