Top positive review
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The series continues to improve!
on 14 May 2003
Richard Woodman has spent most of his life at sea, is an eminent Naval historian and the author of several books on Naval history, plus many fictional books. This background and a superb command of the English language make his books a joy to read. His intimate knowledge of square-riggers takes you inside the ship - you are THERE with the crew, battling the elements or the enemy, feeling each blow.
This new collection of 3 books expands on the theme of the struggle against Napoleon, plus the new threat from the fledgling United States.
Nathaniel Drinkwater, now Captain, is increasingly involved in espionage and subversion as the Secret Service draws on his special talents to undermine Napoleon's empire-building.
In 'Under False Colours', following orders from Lord Dungarth, head of the Secret Service, Nat adopts the disguise of a dissipated merchant mariner (almost too successfully) to sow the seeds of a threat to Napoleon's Russian alliance. It all turns sour and plans are wrought afresh, landing Nat in French custody and meeting an old female adversary. The day is saved, but more by luck (or was it?) than good management.
Not much in the way of action, but the tension and intrigue more than make up for that.
In the 'Flying Squadron', Nat is again under Dungarth's influence; it is apparent that Dungarth is grooming Nat as his successor, which lies uneasily on Nat's uneven shoulders.
After a few months R&R, Nat finds himself in command of a crack squadron with a remit to dissuade the US from assisting France. This involves some dissembling on Nat's part - incidentally assisted by an amorous interlude - which causes Nat a torment of conscience, and his colleagues to have doubts about his sanity. The subsequent astounding success of the mission restores his colleages' faith in his uncanny ability to correctly analyse a confusing array of facts and supposition.
This book is in 3 parts, and each could stand alone, but the constant US thread running through them ties it into one story.
'Beneath The Aurora' sees poor old Dungarth dead and Nat now installed as head of the Secret Department. The job is as boring as Nat imagined, until the sudden arrival of an Italian emissary, which galvanises him into welcome action. The subsequent ramifications of the intelligence gathered at that meeting have one's head spinning with possibilties, the outcome of which depends on Nat's actions.
Which takes him to Norway to scupper American plans of defeating Britain, by assisting Napoleon, and annexing Canada while Britain is occupied elsewhere.
As usual, excellent descriptions and tension-building make the pages fly by - and the author's notes fill in the facts behind the tale. A series to read, savour and re-read.*****