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Patrick O'Brian, Hornblower fans take note

  • Feb 3, 1999
As a British naval officer in the Napoleonic War, an assignment on shore is like exile. Mr. Bartholomew Hoare is permanently in that state at the beginning of "Hoare and the Portsmouth Atrocities," when a spent musket ball took away his voice, and an officer incapable of shouting orders is of no use to the Royal Navy. So the naval lieutenant is given work as an assistant to the port admiral of Portsmouth. Hoare has few compensations for his lonely life. His reduced responsibilities may introduce a discordant note to the reader. We have here a maritime mystery that never sails beyond sight of England. "Hoare" wends its way through the story like a ship sailing amid contrary winds, as the lieutenant encounters a woman being set upon by two ruffians on a beach, a mysterious clockwork device found in a small barrel on shore, and at one point investigates the murder of a captain on board his own ship. There's quite a lot happening, and author Wilder Perkins crams into little more than 200 pages no less that three possible life-changing events for Mr. Hoare. The story adheres close to the conventions of the mystery genre, especially at the climax, and it seems that the operations of the conspiracy at the heart of the matter is too complex for its own good. But Perkins has a fine grasp of the Napoleonic era, with its jolly tars, its devotion to a just cause and its officers at home more on board their quarterdeck than on land. One only wishes that Perkins gave us more time to enjoy the experience.

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Bill Peschel ()
Ranked #476
Bill Peschel was born in 1960 in Ohio, and grew up there and in North Carolina. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a B.A. in journalism. At The Avalon Hill Game Company … more
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Bartholomew Hoare, an officer in His Majesty's Royal Navy during the reign of George III, has been removed from active duty at sea. He now works under Sir George Hardcastle, Port Admiral at Portsmouth. In mid-June 1805, Hoare meets Eleanor Graves, the wife of Dr. Simon Graves of Weymouth, when she is attacked by two ruffians?who prove no match for the diminutive but exceedingly able woman. The next day, one of the attackers is found dead, the other has disappeared and Hoare's ship has been ransacked. There seems to be no connection between these events and Hoare's own investigation into the provenance of a keg full of clockwork parts. Subsequently, however, Hoare is asked to assist in the case of Arthur Gladden, a sailor accused of murdering his captain, and eventually he connects the mysterious happenings and brings all to a satisfactory conclusion. Perkins salts his tale with plenty of naval lore (there's a glossary of naval terms included), lots of action and numerous eccentric characters, including Jane Austen and, in some ways, Hoare himself. This unusual man, whose larynx has been crushed by a musket ball, can speak only in a whisper, and that affliction, plus his unfortunate surname, often makes him the butt of ridicule. While no swashbuckler, he proves himself competent and chivalrous, a nifty hero who may appeal not only to mystery fans but to lovers of naval historical fiction.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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ISBN-10: 0312192835
ISBN-13: 978-0312192839
Author: Wilder Perkins
Publisher: Minotaur Books

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