enhanced] DD-B

Book Note: David Donachie, The Devil's Own Luck

I read this book about 26-Oct-2001. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright 1991. This note was last modified Saturday, 03-May-2014 08:25:45 PDT.

This is book 1 of the "Privateersman" series.

This note does not contain major spoilers for the book.


This is a fighting sail story (wooden ships and iron cannon balls), which claims it's #1 in the Privateersman mysteries. I'm not far enough to see it yet, but I guess the sail is more background than plot in these. I've been a big fan of Forrester's Hornblower novels for years, and more recently (I discovered him only in the late '80s) Patrick O'Brian's Jack Aubrey books, and enjoyed some others in the genre, so this seemed like something I should try.

Sounds like the author keeps busy; he also writes as Tom Connery, about the Royal Marines in the Napoleonic era.

This was fun. It showed more of the seamy side of the Navy (which it could conveniently do because the main characters weren't in it), without it seemed to me going overboard. It's pretty clear even from internal evidence in the series that Horatio Hornblower and Jack Aubrey are very very much better to their crews than the average captain was.

The mystery starts from a plot gone somewhat wrong (mild spoiler only), and is pursued through a battle and a storm, to (of course) an eventual triumph. I like Harry and James Ludlow, and the characters on the ship they're picked up by are nicely drawn and quite varied. They actually meet one seaman who has real class feelings, even.

One problem—many seamen from their own ship were pressed into the crew of the 74 they're picked up by, but they never meet any of them later (and Harry is actively looking for allies among the crew; he doesn't even think of his own crew). And when he's being accused or even framed for leading a mutiny, the issue of his own men is never raised, either. Those men just disappear without a trace. It's sloppy and annoying.

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David Dyer-Bennet