A Flag of Truce is the fourth novel in Donachie’s John Pearce series. The story takes place in 1793, during the period of the French revolution – a period of great conflict and shifting alliances in Europe.
Lieutenant John Pearce returns triumphant from a successful mission in Corsica, but receives a mixed welcome, particularly from his arch-enemy, the deceitful Captain Ralph Barclay of HMS Brilliant. Pearce demands that Captain Barclay, the man who originally pressed him and his fellow Pelicans into the Navy, be tried at home by a civilian court. But as the Siege of Toulon escalates in violence and the revolutionary army prepares to attack, all thoughts of revenge must be put on hold.
Pearce is entrusted by the commander with escorting a large group of radical French sailors to a port on the Atlantic coast, where they are to be set free. However, while Pearce is gone, the backstabbing Admiral Hotham, a friend of Barclay, fixes a court-martial where Barclay is found innocent for lack of evidence.
Pearce’s mission turns out to be much more difficult than expected. When he eventually returns, he finds Barclay acquitted and exempt from further trial under the law of double jeopardy. Despite clear warnings not to do so, he begins a romance with Emily Barclay, but mayhem surrounds the evacuation of Toulon, and the revolutionary forces, including Napoleon Bonaparte, are closing in to retake the port.
A Flag of Truce is the best in the series so far. It is a somewhat “noir” novel which in a very interesting fashion tells a twisting story that feels very authentic. David Donachie is well-versed in the history of this period and writes convincingly. I found this to be a very engaging novel which I do not hesitate to recommend.