by Julian Stockwin

Reviewed by David Maclaine

Like its predecessor in the Kydd series, Betrayal has a title that will reinforce the historically informed reader's suspicions about the outcome of the nautical expedition that dominates the novel. Fear not - there are enough surprises in store in this thirteenth Kydd adventure to keep readers hooked. The expedition is launched after a restless commander in newly conquered South Africa convinces his subordinates that an invasion of South America is a good idea, despite the absence of orders from London to justify such a risky endeavor. Captain Thomas Paine Kydd agrees that a strike at the possessions of Napoleon's Spanish allies, fueled by rumors of revolutionary unrest and unprotected treasure, seems a good idea. His friend Renzi, busy with the idea of turning his dramatic life into fiction, is far more skeptical. Nevertheless, with Kydd in command of one of the ships, the fleet from Cape Town sails, and arrives in the huge estuary of the River Plate. There they discover that treacherous shallows severely hamper their ability to use their ships. The task of conquest falls mainly to a meager army, which must hope that its legendary resolve and discipline can overcome the usual shortfall in numbers. If they do manage a victory, their long-term success or failure will hinge on whether the promised aid from local rebels materializes. Here the novel's title rather gives away the outcome - but without lessening suspense.

In Betrayal, author Julian Stockwin reveals secrets to the reader that his main characters have not suspected, by showing the councils of their betrayers. The effect actually heightens suspense, with the reader's anxiety over the betrayal adding an extra layer of tension as crucial events unfold. The twists and turns of the story offer ample surprise, and the author's masterful recreation of the challenges posed by the great river's maze of shifting shoals is nearly matched by his keen-eyed depiction of complex rivalries and counterplots ashore. (2012, 320 pages)

More about Betrayal at Powell's Books or

Other novels about naval expeditions to South America and the Caribbean:

21: The Final Unfinished Voyage by Jack Aubrey by Patrick O'Brian (2004), the first draft of a manuscript left unfinished at the time of O'Brian's death in 2000, in which Jack Aubrey once again encounters his illegitimate black son, now a papal legate in South America; #21 and last in the Aubrey/Maturin series. More info

To Glory We Steer by Alexander Kent (1968), about a young British naval captain who must cope with a mutinous crew in 1782 in the Caribbean; #7 in the Richard Bolitho series. More info

The Gun Ketch by Dewey Lambdin (1993), about a pleasure-loving officer in the British navy who finally gets his own ship in 1786 and goes to the Bahamas to fight pirates; #5 in the Alan Lewrie series. More info

Nonfiction about the Napoleonic Wars:

Britain, Portugal and South America in the Napoleonic Wars by Martin Robson (2011). More info

British Napoleonic Ship-of-the-Line by Angus Konstam and illustrator Tony Bryan (2001). More info

Naval Battles of the Napoleonic Wars by W.H. Fitchett (2007). More info

At the Movies:

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, the 2003 film starring Russell Crowe as Captain Jack Aubrey and Paul Bettany as Dr. Stephen Maturin.


Napoleonic Wars at Wikipedia

Back to Novels of the Napoleonic Era

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