Friday, 29 September 2000

Alexander Kent: Enemy in Sight! (1970)

Edition: Hamlyn, 1971
Review number: 635

Another one of Kent's conventional naval adventures starring Richard Bolitho. Reading three or four of these in a few months makes them seem quite tedious in the end; the background plot details may move on (a new rank for Bolitho, for example), but everything else about them is pretty much the same.

In this particular case, there are fairly obvious problems with the plot, in the specific way in which Bolitho shows his brilliance in contrast to the incompetence of a superior. Stationed with the vessels blockading revolutionary France (to prevent an invasion of the British Isles), Bolitho spends almost all of the novel chasing backwards and forwards across the Atlantic after a French admiral allowed to escape by the indecisiveness of the commodore commanding Bolitho's assigned squadron. A continuous series of amazing and unlikely deductions enables Bolitho to divine what the escapee plans to do next and mount an attack. Each of these is foiled by the commodore until a wound prevents his interference. None of the mental leaps is really justified, and the contrast with the bafflement of the other British officers is almost comical.

Slipshod and poor, Enemy in Sight! does not reach the standards of the rest of the series, which is usually craftsman-like if never inspired.

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