Find the Frenchman! A stirring chase across England after an escaped French convict is the stuff of this second installment in a projected trilogy of the Napoleonic Wars (The Blighted Cliffs, 2004).
The year is 1806. Young Martin Jerrold has now been promoted to naval captain, in charge of 800 French prisoners on a hulk, a stripped-down vessel docked at Chatham. This suits Jerrold just fine. It keeps him out of naval action (nothing beats self-preservation) and allows frequent visits by his mistress Isobel. But disaster looms. Jerrold’s interpreter, the prisoner Dumont, escapes, dressed in Isobel’s clothes, just as an imperious Horse Guards officer, Major Lebrett, arrives, demanding to see Dumont, who possesses some hugely important papers. On learning of Dumont’s escape, Lebrett relieves Jerrold of his command. By now Dumont is en route to London, as is the unfortunate Jerrold, summoned to a meeting at the Admiralty. There the First Lord also emphasizes the importance of catching Dumont. Even the royal family is involved. Lebrett is working for the Prince of Wales, while the Admiralty supports the King. Jerrold is caught in the middle of factional intrigue, and Lebrett is his nemesis. Still, he has a happy-go-lucky temperament and a powerful ally in Nevell, a kind of secret-service operative. The pair almost capture Dumont in London, but he escapes again. here follows a wild journey to Plymouth, across desolate Dartmoor, with Lebrett a constant threat. Soon there will be a shootout on the beach; a dramatic meeting at the Brighton Pavilion between Jerrold and the Prince’s mistress, who will reveal the secret of Dumont’s papers; and a final showdown at sea, from which Jerrold will emerge with credit.
Thomas is a robust storyteller, with a shipshape plot that would please any mariner. Fast-moving, suspenseful fun.