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Publisher: Bantam (Transworld UK)
Release Date: June 1, 2004
ISBN: 0553815148
Format Reviewed: Paperback
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Genre:   Historical Crime [1806, Dover]
Reviewed: 2004
Reviewer: Rachel A Hyde
Reviewer Notes:  

The Blighted Cliffs
The Reluctant Adventures of Lieutenant Martin Jerrold,No. 1 
By Edwin Thomas

   Reviews featured on the cover of this novel describe it as being a cross between George MacDonald Fraser and Patrick O'Brien. If there truly were a book like that it would doubtless be the best thing I had read all year, but actually this novel bears little real resemblance to either (especially the latter) being entrenched in the historical mystery genre instead. Enter Lieutenant Martin Jerrold RN, fresh from Trafalgar where he managed to be one of the very few who got through it without seeing any action whatever due to hiding on his ship after a drinking binge. His uncle in the Admiralty is giving him one last chance to redeem himself before he ships him to the West Indies and so he is sent to Dover to help sort out the smugglers. Nevertheless, nobody is talking and nobody wants him except in jail, especially after his first act is to stumble upon a body lying on the beach…

   This is the first of a new series of mysteries about the misadventures of Jerrold. Told in his own words a la Flashman, he comes over as being a likeable rogue more sinned against than sinning and nobody's worst enemy but his own. Some specific details about Dover would have brought this novel to life, although the parts about smuggling and preventives are engaging and informative enough. What this story does need is a little more action; Jerrold wandering about does not constitute active investigation. The last part of the book boasts some thrilling escapades indeed and now the scene for the series is set. Perhaps we can look forward to some thrilling tales of derring-do? Having the protagonist tell the story in his own words is inspired, and there are some genuinely funny parts too without them swamping the story and making it seem silly which is no mean feat. Put in a bit more period color and a bit more action and this new series ought to shape up nicely.