Reviewed by David Maclaine
The title of Invasion, tenth in the Kydd series, refers to the looming assault by Napoleon against the shores of Britain. After Thomas Paine Kydd wins another ingenious but minor victory against the French who are amassing landing craft for this invasion, he and his beloved sloop Teazer are dispatched to the Downs Squadron which guards the shores that any moment may become the front lines in a life-or-death struggle. There he inspects the men employed in the coast watch, makes the passing acquaintance of one Captain Frances Austen whose sister "swears she will be published some day," and learns a bit about the mysterious coastal trade of hovelling.
Napoleon's hopes to win command of the sea long enough to bring over his powerful army may hinge on an obscure inventor from America. Kydd's friend Renzi embarks on a secret mission to lure Robert Fulton away from France before his newly invented submersible vessel can tip the scales of battle. Soon the question of mounting or thwarting the invasion may depend on whether Fulton's submarine can deploy the packets of explosives he calls "torpedoes" in such a way as to destroy an unsuspecting ship at anchor. As readers of the series may have already suspected, the prospect of this insidious new form of warfare proves a challenge to Renzi's high ideals.
The intersection of Stockwin's fictional characters with a core of amazing historical fact proves once again the old saw: truth is stranger than fiction. Invasion reminds us that the "what ifs" of history are more than a game for idle minds; they reflect the unsettling truth that huge historical turning points may hinge on small details. The novel offers a stimulating look at a mind whose creations would eventually end of the Age of Sail. (2009, 320 pages)More about Invasion at Powell's Books or Amazon.com