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.
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