Hold Fast

Norton. May 2021. 256p. ISBN 9780393867046. $25.95. F
DEBUT It’s 1803. France and England are at peace, but it’s clear that won’t last. Captain Thomas Grey is England’s chief of naval intelligence in Malta. When his wife is killed in battle with a French frigate, Grey resigns from the service, intending to move to the United States. At sea, his ship is attacked by French privateers. Grey saves the ship but has to dock in Oporto for repairs, where he encounters an Irish recruiter for the French. Grey’s sense of duty kicks in, and he plays the embittered ex-functionary, possessed of information about British naval arrangements. He’s soon in Paris, where he encounters the captain of the frigate that killed his wife. He’s set on revenge but must first ferret out French plans for an invasion of England. By the time he’s done, Grey will have fought a sea battle and two duels, broken out of a Parisian prison where he was being tortured, and dallied with a charming French mademoiselle; at book’s end, he’s back in England with Napoleon’s plans. So much for retiring. He’s ready for another adventure.
VERDICT Gelernter’s first novel is a pleasing romp through James Bond territory, set back a century and several decades and moved to Napoleonic France.
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