Young William Bentley, survivor of the bloody Welfare mutiny, reluctantly resumes his naval career as an officer on the press tender Biter. When the Biter is reassigned to combat the wicked trade of smuggling, Bentley is caught up in the investigation of the murder of two customs officers.
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Jan Needle, a native of Portsmouth, England, has had a lifelong interest in naval history. He is the author of four acclaimed novels under the pseudonym Frank Kippax, and also has a highly successful career as a TV scriptwriter and, under his own name, as a writer of award-winning children's fiction.From Publishers Weekly:
The title refers to smuggling operations on England's coast during the 18th century, when customs men and smugglers battled over piles of booty. Now young midshipman William Bentley of the Royal Navy is up to his cutlass in plots, treachery and murder in the second volume (following last year's A Fine Boy for Killing) of Needle's series about the adventures of this intrepid naval officer. After several years ashore, hunger forces Bentley to return to the service, although he hates the navy and the sea life. He is not surprised, therefore, to be posted to an impress ship, a drab scow charged with forcibly recruiting sailors, to fill the king's warships with seamen in the current war with France. Bentley and his fellow midshipman friend, Sam Holt, are soon drawn into a complicated conspiracy after two customs men are brutally murdered by a well-organized smuggling gang. Greed, corruption and betrayal reach high levels in the navy and the government, and the two midshipmen soon are way over their heads in a cesspool of savagery and duplicity. This is an entertaining but gruesome swashbuckler, albeit without the glory of a Hornblower or the class of a Ramage. Needle grimly and accurately portrays naval existence and the life of the poor as dirty, cruel and ruthless scenes of young whores having their teeth pulled out to make impromptu dentures for the wealthy are particularly graphic, as is the brutish treatment of women overall. Expectedly, Needle's conclusion is vague and unfulfilling, leaving scores of loose ends to be tidied up in the next book in the series.
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