Hornblower During the Crisis by C. S. Forester: B

From the back cover:
Although unfinished at the time of C. S. Forester’s death, Hornblower During the Crisis delivers a full measure of action at sea—the hallmark of this incomparably exciting series of historical adventures.

On the threshold of securing his first post as captain, Hornblower finds himself forced by the exigencies of war to fight alongside a man whom he has unintentionally helped to court-martial. And for the first time, Hornblower assents to engaging in espionage in his efforts to bring victory and glory to England in the Napoleonic Wars.

This extant fragment of Forester’s final Hornblower novel is followed by the author’s notes regarding the novel’s conclusion. Also included in this volume are two stories—”Hornblower’s Temptation” and “The Last Encounter”—that depict the great sea dog Hornblower in his youth and old age, respectively.

I liked what there was of Hornblower During the Crisis, but the best was probably yet to come. Hornblower had the opportunity for one daring exploit and to hatch one clever plan, but that was about it.

The short stories weren’t too exciting, either. The first, here called “Hornblower’s Temptation” but also known as “Hornblower and the Widow McCool,” initially reminded me a little of The Crying Game. Hornblower was appointed to oversee a captured deserter and, in his role as reluctant executioner, made a deal with the prisoner to convey a message to his widow. Things unfolded quite differently than expected, but since it all played out kind of like a Nancy Drew adventure game, the effect was less than amazing.

In “The Last Encounter,” Hornblower was 72 and was enjoying a post-prandial glass of port when a fellow turned up at his house claiming to be Napoleon Bonaparte. This story was short and kind of pointless, though it did have a couple of cute moments between Hornblower and his wife, Barbara.

If I’d been a Forester fan as he was writing, I surely would’ve been disappointed with this final collection of his Hornblower works. Happily, though, since I’ve switched to reading by internal chronology, I’ve got two further books to go that hopefully will be better than this.

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