Mysterious Book Report No. 448
by John Dwaine McKenna
Just in time for the start of the summer reading season, a brand-new author has brought out the first volume of what we hope will be a long-running seafaring series in the tradition of Patrick O’Brian and Bernard Corwell.
Hold Fast, (Norton, $25.95, 256 pages, ISBN 978-0-393-86704-6) by J.H. Gelernter, opens in England, in the year of our Lord, 1803 . . . a time when diplomacy is failing and war appears to be imminent between historic enemies Britain and France. Nevertheless, Captain Thomas Grey of the British Royal Marines tenders his resignation. He wants to accept a job in America and leave his career in naval intelligence, where he was the head of station in Malta and spied upon the Barbary pirates, who were wrecking havoc on merchant ships of all nations. But, as his ship returned to England from North Africa, it was attacked by a French warship and his wife, who was traveling with him, is killed. A year later, mourning and depressed, Grey finally decides to head for Boston and start his new life. Fate intercedes again however, and war is declared between the two old antagonists shortly after the vessel sets sail, and it too comes under fire from a French warship. It’s repulsed with the assistance of Grey, who’s lost none of his fighting skills with sword, rifle or pistol.
They put into port at Oporto, Portugal for repairs and the formation of a convoy for a safer voyage across the Atlantic. A couple of days later, while waiting in town, Grey is approached by an Irishman named Branson, who works for the French Intelligence Services as a recruiter. He assumes that Grey is disillusioned with his country, and offers a large sum of money for information. Grey agrees—not because he’s a turncoat—but because he sees an opportunity to help the English war effort and extract some revenge from an old enemy at the same time.
And so begins a rousing action-adventure tale, full of fighting, suspense, revenge, treachery and heroism, as well as some actual history. This novel will educate at the same time it entertains the reader and leave everyone looking forward to the next adventure of valiant Captain Thomas Grey!
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