The Blighted Cliffs

Written by Edwin Thomas
Review by Ray Thompson

Poor Lieutenant Jerrold! For one who prefers a life of self-indulgence over danger, he does receive more than his share of hard knocks: he stumbles across not one, but two, corpses, and is accused of murdering one of them; twice he is clapped in irons and threatened with hanging by a harsh magistrate; he is savagely beaten and later captured by ruthless smugglers; in combat against the French, he is knocked senseless when he boards a frigate and later forced to jump into the sea from a flaming balloon. Even his quieter moments are marred by (understandable) anxiety and fierce hangovers. Obviously he is not a fast learner, but he is a survivor, thanks more to the timely assistance of others than to his own resourcefulness.

This is “Book One of the Reluctant Adventures of Lieutenant Martin Jerrold,” set in Dover during the Napoleonic Wars, and lovers of fast-paced adventure and plentiful irony will not be disappointed, as the “reluctant hero” lurches from one misstep to another. The combination of mystery, nautical adventure, and smugglers’ tale does make for a congested plot line, but Jerrold’s cynical point of view and the author’s historical knowledge offer a refreshing insight into English society during this era.