Thursday, May 13, 2010

Enemy in Sight - Alexander Kent

"Bolitho raised his head, his eyes moving swiftly above the crouched gunners, shutting the sounds of splintering timber from his ears, concentrating his full being on the ships ahead of him. No wonder the enemy had waited so patiently and confidently. Instead of receiving a controlled line of ships across their rear they were now faced with something approaching chaos."

Richard is now captain of his own ship but juggling several issues. His wife is expecting their first child but he won't be present for the birth, his commanding officer is an incompetent blowhard, his ship is undermanned, his crew untrained and mutinous and his traitorous brother's son has just enlisted as a midshipman under his command. On their own these problems would no doubt be an inconvenience but Bolitho also happens to be sitting on a blockade to keep the French in harbour, a thankless and frankly, very boring job.

As always, Kent manages to provide an interesting story. England is currently at war with Revolutionary France and Bolitho commands one of many ships running blockade duty on the French fleet to keep them in harbour. There are also some interesting characters including Bolitho's commanding officer, Commodore Mathias Pelham-Martin, an antagonistic fool.

There's also some beautifully evocative descriptions peppered throughout the book that lend themselves to creating images of 18th century naval life, from sea battles to military drills. For example:

The sky was hidden by a film of pale cloud which distorted the afternoon sunlight into an angry glare and painted the irregular wavecrests with a harsh bronze hue."

Overall this was an enjoyable read with Bolitho traveling all over and having to deal with his nephew. I would recommend it to any fans of historical naval fiction.

Follow Richard in his next naval adventure in To Glory we Steer.

Rating: 3.5/5

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