Action, violence, blood, strong drink, lust, old grudges and camaraderie fill Troubled Waters (Thomas Dunne Books, 307 pp., $25.95), Nashvillian Dewey Lambdin’s 14th novel in the Alan Lewrie Naval Adventure series. The now Captain Lewrie fights an in-absentia death sentence for stealing slaves in Jamaica, and also stirs up trouble for the French during blockade duty off the Gironde in 1800.
Captain Lewrie is a warmer protagonist than C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower, less obsessive but no less introspective or complex. While dedicated to duty as a British naval officer, he’s not always entirely honorable by some standards—certainly not his wife’s. He’s not a hothead, but he doesn’t suffer boredom for long before finding ways to shake things up. By this novel, he has accumulated a large collection of friends and enemies in and out of the service, not to mention at least one bastard and lots of ex-lady friends of various repute and qualities—including those with “sweetly rounded figures” and others with “the wits of an addled sheep.” Now in his late 30s, he’s been around and knows himself pretty well.
Again Lambdin successfully sets up the historical context of Napoleonic Europe, the ancient irrationalities of the British court system and the anti-slavery movement. He also brings new-to-the-series readers into the many backstory subplots and reacquaints longtime readers with the highly technical and specialized naval world of the series. For all these challenges, Lambdin proves ready. He excels especially in the detailed descriptions of dress, food and drink, weapons and attitudes. The times and places live again.
Dewey Lambdin will read and sign Troubled Waters at 7 p.m March 18 at Davis-Kidd.