Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Review - The Tainted Prize (Quarterdeck)

by M. C. Muir
Lulu.com | $16.81, Trade Paperback
$2.99 Kindle Edition | 232 pages
IT IS 1803. After twelve months of peace under the Treaty of Amiens, England is once again at war with France. With virtually every post captain at sea, Captain Oliver Quintrell, late of the frigate Elusive, wonders why “he alone had been left on the beach” with the country threatened by a French invasion across the Channel.
In London, Quintrell seeks an audience with the First Lord of the Admiralty, John Jervis, Earl of St Vincent. “Captain Quintrell, you come here in the hope you will receive a commission…you will not be disappointed,” says St Vincent. “His Majesty’s Frigate Perpetual awaits you in Gibraltar.”
Arriving at The Rock aboard the frigate Isle of Lewis, Quintrell receives sealed orders directing him to the Southern Ocean in search of the missing 28-gun frigate Compendium, which is carrying the new British Ambassador to Peru.
A port call in Madeira to water and collect firewood allows Oliver to find a brief respite in the arms of his lover, Susanna, before setting a course for the perilous Strait of Magellan, seeking clues to the man-of war’s whereabouts.
Once Perpetual is at sea again, the pace quickens. Four days out from Madeira, she encounters a British frigate under attack by a pair of French corvettes and sails into battle, taking a prize.
Reaching the passage separating South America from the Island of Tierra del Fuego, the frigate slowly makes her way westward, eluding rocks and small islands.
Muir’s vivid description of this forbidding place left me with a chill.
Rounding a headland, a lookout spies an abandoned square-rigger, foundered and seemingly deserted, with condors floating on light airs above. A nightmarish scene greets Quintrell and the Perpetuals, as they board the ghost ship.
Escaping the dismal passage and standing out into the Pacific on a northerly course, the mood aboard brightens noticeably as Perpetual skirts the South American coast.
But French privateers and political schemes complicate the mission.
Muir writes a splendid story, combining crisp prose, heightened
by a keenness that kept me turning pages late into the evening.
The Tainted Prize, along with the initial Oliver Quintrell adventure, Floating Gold, scrupulously depict the Royal Navy during Napoleonic times.
George Jepson (Editor – Quarterdeck)

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