At the height of the Napoleonic Wars, Mathew Hawkwood, a Runner for the British police, is given an unusual assignment. Usually called upon to apprehend criminals, he is ordered to investigate the disappearance of Royal Navy officers who had been searching for the possible smuggling of French prisoners off former British men-of-war, now hulks converted to prisons. Given a new identity as an American officer captured fighting for the French in Spain, Hawkwood is taken “prisoner” aboard the Rapacious, a prison ship where four prisoners have disappeared after their escape.
During the first few days, he befriends a French privateer officer, Captain Lasseur. They both become embroiled in the below-deck power struggles between the inmates and eventually face the leader of a band of cutthroats led by a scoundrel named Matisse. They also let it be known that they wished to purchase an escape from the prison.
Eventually the two inmates are provided the means to escape. On land, they are helped by local English smugglers, eventually meeting the leader of a band who controls the smuggling trade in the area.
This novel is the third installment of the series featuring Bow Street Runner Mathew Hawkwood. I’ve read all of the books in the series and must admit I thoroughly enjoyed this entry. It is not necessary to read the previous books. The characters and plot are well written, the bad guys are diabolical, and the excitement creates a page-turning adventure. Highly recommended.