Book Review: “The Ramage Touch” by Dudley Pope

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Book 10 of the Lord Ramage Novels finds Captain Nicholas Ramage and the men of His Majesty’s Frigate Calypso on a four-month cruise in the Mediterranean, at a time when that body of water has virtually been swept clean of British ships. Even though Ramage and the Calypsos prefer the climate of their previous station in the Caribbean, they couldn’t ask for a more ideal set of instructions: to cruise, without a convoy and independent of any superior officers’ direct interference, “to create as much havoc as he could along the French and Italian coasts, disrupting shipping, transport, communications…”

If you ask Ramage to create havoc among the enemy, you’ve come to the right shop. In this particular mission, aided by all his old faithful followers as well as at least one promising newcomer (a “wide awake,” flute playing, young lieutenant named Martin), Ramage captures two bomb-ketches — which is to say, two small ships designed not so much for their sailing virtues as to provide floating platforms for the firing of explosive mortar shells. At first, after seeing to it that his junior officers have a grasp of the principles of firing a mortar, Ramage seems content to sink the bomb-ketches. But they prove useful in battering a troop convoy being manned in a Tuscan port, and in capturing the plans for a mysterious massing of troops in the eastern Mediterranean.

Once again, Ramage proves that he has a unique touch with men, sails, guns, and the many daring disguises of war. At times wittily comical, and often overflowing with action and excitement, this book is a valuable installment in a consistently fun-to-read series. I might quibble at the marine lieutenant’s name suddenly (and for this book only) changing from Rennick to Renwick; but neither C.S. Forester nor Patrick O’Brian was immune to continuity gaffes over the course of a long series of novels, so why get worked up about it? After all, it’s just another reminder of the vast number of miles, battles, and thrilling exploits covered in the 18 Ramage novels. And if you hadn’t already guessed, I’ll let you in on a secret: I mean to read them all!

Recommended Age: 12+