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Thrilling yarn of the sea
on 17 March 2014
I really enjoyed this tale, partly because it was so well constructed and paced, partly because the grammar and construction was so good and finally because one of the main characters - the monitor Marshal Mermont - was such an unusual choice. I had always been dimly aware of this type of ship, which was something of a mongrel (or folly), intended as a platform for massive heavy calibre guns that could bombard shore establishments and quite lacking any turn of speed or manoeuvrability that would make her capable of a naval action at sea. Unsurprisingly, the type was extremely short lived. However, I was intrigued by her inclusion in an eccentric force along with an ancient destroyer, that might somehow be able to meet the looming submarine threat. Alan Evans makes it all believable and we are carried along at a fast clip into a really fine naval thriller.
The structure and plot are eerily similar to books by Douglas Reeman (and none the worse for that): a self-effacing hero under the command of an incompetent senior officer, wearily resigned to his fate; unsuitable ship and weapons; a crew initially fragmented and unwilling, brought quickly to extreme loyalty; a seemingly impossible mission; and a little romance saved by the honourable hero.