Having done their duty at Trafalgar (1805) and subsequently elsewhere, notably Curaçao, Captain Kydd and his frigate are recalled by the British Admiralty. Both Kydd and his secretary, Renzi, are apprehensive. Kydd fears a court-martial on account of the surrender at Buenos Aires. Renzi is concerned about his future financial prospects, his father – an earl – having disinherited him. However, astonishments await them. Kydd is summoned to Windsor Castle. While he dares not correct King George III’s mispronunciation of “Curaçao,” Kydd graciously accepts a knighthood. Renzi’s father is dead, and he earns his rightful title and retires on the estate. Subsequently, Kydd and his ship, while on duty in the Mediterranean, are entrusted to carry a crucial dispatch to Malta to advise the British fleet’s Rear-Admiral of the French’s overtures to the Turkish Sultan; Napoleon wishes to secure a land route to India. Kydd, not locating the Rear-Admiral, decides to sail through the hostile Dardarnelles to Constantinople. As fate would have it, Kydd’s and Renzi’s paths cross again. Renzi, now an Ambassador Extraordinaire, is sent under disguise to Constantinople.
Although the rather long (70-page) opening reads delightfully with period niceties, dialogue, and norms, it’s devoid of conflict and might make some readers skim swiftly forward. However, as expected, the fighting sail action soon follows. Julian Stockwin’s nautical background shows in his scenes, written with ample details, which make us feel as if we are aboard the vessels and in Constantinople. The relatively unknown Royal Navy’s Dardanelles Operation (1807) forms the novel’s plot, although with slight adjustments to the timeframe. The weaving of Kydd’s and Renzi’s storylines are masterfully constructed to the superb conclusion While this book – almost a standalone – is fifteenth in Stockwin’s Kydd series, more titles are planned. They will be eagerly awaited. Recommended.