"Signal - Close Action" by Alexander Kent

In this 12th installment of the Richard Bolitho saga, Bolitho is appointed commodore of a small squadron ( 3 74s, 1 frigate, and one sloop), and sent into the Mediterranean Sea to discover what the French are up to. This is his first independent command (other than as a frigate Captain) and he beset with many new types of problems. One of his captains is too ambitious and another holds an old grudge and is unreliable. The 3rd 74 is captained by his old friend Herrick, but he has problems with self doubt. 

There is plenty of action including land battles on the Spanish coast and North Africa. The main battle takes place near the Island of Corfu, where Bolitho's squadron traps and ravishes a French supply fleet. But the British losses are high due to the failure of one of his ships to show up on time in support. The treacherous British captain is killed by one of his own men otherwise the ship would not appeared at all. Due to this tardiness, Bolitho's flagship is lost, but the battle won. The last battle in the book takes place against the French supply fleet heading to bolster the French invasion of Egypt. Bolitho's squadron trashes the supply fleet while Nelson is destroying the main French fleet at The Battle of the Nile.

Many of the old hands and friends are with Bolitho in addition to Herrick. Allday, Commander Inch, Nephew Adam Pascoe are also with him and new friends are made (Lieutenants Kerverne and Vitch) and Herrick meets his future bride. This book is great fun and packed with the gritty action one comes to expect from Kent. His fans will not be disappointed.

McBooks will be releasing chapters 14-18 this April and I will be one of the first to get them.

Reviewed by Kenneth S. Smith 24 March 2000

McBooks Press
Ithaca, New York

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