“Hazardous Duty” is the third book in Michael Winston’s nautical fiction series featuring Jonathan Kinkaid, but the fourth in terms of publication date. After writing the third book in the series, Tidings of Victory, the author seemingly decided to write one more book in the series, and make it the third book in the series.
Hazardous Duty tells the tale of a small group of ships in the Continental Navy that venture out into the cold and dark waters of the North Atlantic to take the war to the English: to strike at, raid, and harass English convoys and English shipping, to capture valuable cargos from the British, and to the extent possible do damage to their economy. The story in this book is based on events that, according to the author, took place before John Paul Jones became famous for his role in the Battle of Flamborough Head when he as a young commander took part in raids against the English along with men like Dudley Saltonstall, Esek Hopkins, and John Barry. In Hazardous Duty we meet John Paul Jones as commander of Alfred. They both were part of a squadron commanded by Commodore Hopkins.
Jonathan Kinkaid is now Captain of an 18-gun sloop of war, Ranger, and mostly tasked with scouting duties for the Continental Fleet. It is grueling duty: the crew is inexperienced, the weather is often very harsh, the ship is new and not quite sound. But the American squadron is successful. They manage to take several prizes. But the duty doesn’t only involve glorious battles and the taking of prizes. War, after all, is war, and not always honorable or glorious. And some of the things the Continental Navy does are things Kinkaid is not too happy to participate in: such as destroying and burning the fishing boats of innocent civilians or to attack and burn fishing villages.
Naturally, the activities of the American Fleet attract the attention of the British, and after a while, the Americans encounter a group of powerful but not quite as fast British ships that attempts to trap and destroy them. Soon the American hunters become instead the prey. Will they make it to a safe port?
Hazardous Duty is a good, very entertaining installment in the Kinkaid series. It is not quite as fast and furious as Uprising – to my mind it has a little less glory – and is a bit more «serious» (for lack of a better word) and perhaps more realistic. While the previous novel was reminiscent of Dudley Pope’s Lord Ramage series in style, this book reminded me of Richard Woodman’s series about Nathaniel Drinkwater: a tad more noir-ish. To some extent, this adds depth to the story.
Hazardous Duty is a suspenseful and quite interesting nautical fiction tale dealing with the Revolutionary War and the formative years of the Continental Navy. It’s a great read!