AOS Book Reviews


This section contains reviews of AOS books by David Hayes and members of the forum (Modern Era Reviews)

Review: Bloody Rain by Rick Spilman

Bloody RainTo set the stage and develop the plot of a gripping murder mystery within the confines of a short story takes a master storyteller, and that's what you have in Rick Spilman. In his short story Bloody Rain: Murder, Madness & the Monsoon he does all that as well as bringing to life a merchant ship in the days of sail.

The action mainly takes place in the Hooghly River of the city then known as Calcutta, India, and the sub title 'Murder, Madness & the Monsoon' sums up this short story nicely. Spilman's love and knowledge of the sea and the sailing ships of the era shine through this fast paced read which was hard to put down.

If you want a 'quick fix' of nautical fiction this one is a must. Highly recommended.

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Review: Turn a Blind Eye by Alaric Bond

Turn a Blind EyeAlaric Bond's new novel, Turn A Blind Eye, moves away from his 'Fighting Sail' series and the Royal Navy to the world of smuggling on the South Coast of England. It follows Commander Griffin and the crew of the Revenue cutter Bee as they battle to rid Newhaven of an entrenched gang of snugglers who hold sway over the town.

Bond is a master storyteller and he weaves a well written plot that explores the divided loyalties of the townsfolk who support small scale smuggling but are fearful of the gangs strength. The narrative vividly recounts life in a small fishing town where the Revenue men seek to combat a practice that is draining the country of money to fight the war against France and even sometimes supplying the enemy, whilst their fast agile cutter is often outgunned by the smugglers.

As usual Bond's research shines through as he subtly educates us about smuggling in a fast paced hard to put down book. Highly Recommended.

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Review: Admiralty Orders by M. C. Muir

Admiralty OrdersIn this the third book of Under Admiralty Orders - The Oliver Quintrell Series M. C. Muir continues to develop old and new interesting characters who do not follow the norm of most naval fiction adventures.

Gibraltar has a walk on part in many naval fiction novels, however in Admiralty Orders it comes centre stage as Quintrell and his crew are sent to join the defences as war with Spain looms. While plague depletes the garrison and population of 'The Rock' during 1804 and the resultant quarantine cuts off help from the Mediterranean fleet Quintrell must offer what assistance he can to defend the colony.

As you might expect, this novel is mainly land based but it is good to read about the realities of life in this tiny outpost of vital importance to the Royal Navy. The true events of 1804 are woven into a well writter and believable plot. I continue to enjoy reading Quintrell's adventures and look forward to the next in the series Coins for the Colony. Recommended.

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Review: Gun Bay by William H. White

Gun BayGun Bay opens with an excellent narrative based around the arrival of a major hurricane on Grand Cayman Island which brings to life the effect of such storms on the population. The rest of the book follows Edward Ballantyne and some fellow officers through day to day naval events in the Carribbean until a convoy and it's escort find themselves ashore on the reef off the East End of Grand Cayman. It then follows the survivors and the inevitable court martial that follows.

White is a good storyteller and his characterisations really brought to life the everyday activities of naval officers of the period whilst in port so that you have empathy with them. The point of the book is of course to relate and bring to a wider audience the true events surrounding the stranding of HMS Convert and nine of the vessels she was escorting which is fully achieved. The stranding of so many ships so soon after the small island was devastated by a hurricane has meant the story has passed down through the generations and stil forms part of local folk lore on the island but as far as I am aware it has not previously featured in naval fiction novel.

This book is worth reading just for the detailed account of true events that are not widely known but it is also a well written book in the naval fiction genre which I recommend.

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Richard Spilman Review: Turn a Blind Eye by Alaric Bond

Turn a Blind EyeOriginally published on the The Old Salt Blog

Alaric Bond, in his latest novel, Turn A Blind Eye, vividly captures the complex and often contradictory world of a seaside village caught between loyalty, prosperity, treachery and murder. It is 1801, on the coast of Sussex. England is at war with the French and its own countrymen. Commander Griffin, new to the customs service has much to learn. He commands the light but agile revenue cutter Bee in action against the often more heavily gunned French and their local smuggler allies. The even greater danger, however, may be ashore. At least at sea, he has a reasonable idea who is his enemy. Ashore, who can be trusted and who cannot, is not quite so clear.

The local fishermen can earn far more smuggling than they can catching fish. Nevertheless, for the fishing village, it may be a devil's bargain as the ruthless criminal gang behind the smuggling operation may demand a higher price than the village is willing to pay. For how long with they be able to simply "turn a blind eye?"

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Review: The Lion of Midnight by J. D. Davies

The Lion of MidnightAs you might expect from a naval novel with the title The Lion of Midnight, this latest instalment of the 'Journals of Matthew Quinton' by historian J. D. Davies carves a new path in the annals of naval fiction.

As I have said before the navies of the 1660's were very different with courtiers rather than professional sailors making command decisions and in this case we are looking at the intrigues of the Swedish court as well. Sweden at the time was a country with a relatively small population compared with it's European neighbours and it was going through a 'golden age; for it's military prowess. It had conquered nearby lands and was respected as a strong military power. Into this mix is thrown Matthew Quinton on a mission to escort a fleet of mast ships home, some diplomatic passengers, a peer of the realm who had signed Charles I's death warrant and an old nemesis of Matthew.

Davies uses his historical accuracy to bring to life 1660's Gothenburg and the plotting of the various European powers in relation to one another and to Sweden in a well developed plot. Quite a bit of the book is spent on land but this does not detract and as you would expect from this author there is a well written climactic sea battle to keep HNF fans happy.

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