"A King's Cutter" by Richard Woodman

This is chapter two in the Nathaniel Drinkwater series. These books are long on action, seamanship, and the realities of life at sea aboard a British man-of-war. The books are based on factual events and real people with the hero at the periphery of the main events, but sometimes, smack in the middle.

In the first book, "An Eye of the Fleet", Drinkwater was involved in the American Revolution. After the war he did not receive a permanent commission and was released from service. The year is now 1791 and war with France looms on the horizon. Drinkwater is recalled and assigned as a master's mate aboard the sloop Krestrel under the command of an older passed-over lieutenant, Griffiths. The sloop carries out clandestine mission along the French coast. When war does come, Krestrel spends several years as a courier and commerce raider in the channel. Drinkwater runs across a French spy, Edouard Santhonax. They meet a few times at sea, and cross swords once on land, but there is no resolution. Later, the Krestrel is assigned to the fleet blockading the Dutch while the mutinies at Spithead and the Nore are in progress. Once the mutinies are resolved, it is found that Santhonax has had a hand in instigating the mutinies. Drinkwater spots him in a sloop in Dutch waters where is trying to get the Dutch Admiral to commit his fleet to engage the British and then lead the way for the invasion of Ireland.

Drinkwater is in command of the sloop (Griffiths has broken his leg) when the Battle of Copenhagen takes place in October of 1797. The British fleet, lead by Admiral Duncan, soundly trashes the Dutch Fleet (but with over 1000 British casualties). It is there the Krestrel takes on the Dutch sloop Draaken with Santhonax aboard. The action is eyeball-to-eyeball. After the action, Drinkwater gets his long deserved commission as a lieutenant and I am off to the next book, "Brig of War".

These books rival the works of O'Brien, Nelson, Kent, Parkinson, and Pope.

Reviewed by Kenneth S. Smith 21 March 2000

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