It is late summer 1804 and Tripoli is the last of the Barbary states to continue hostilities against the U.S. Despite setbacks against the American squadron, the Bashaw of Tripoli continues to resist, holding the crew of the USS Philadelphia hostage in his fort. Decatur's Revenge, the final volume of Hoyt's Stephen Decatur trilogy, opens immediately after the gunboat action against Tripoli that closed the second novel, Against Cold Steel.
Lieutenant Decatur was a firebrand, ready for the hottest action or to defend his honor against any man. In the course of this book, he grows into a naval commander who sees the big picture and makes difficult decisions that cost other men their lives. By the end of the book, Decatur is posted captain, the Bashaw of Tripoli is tamed and Decatur leaves the Mediterranean for his beloved Philadelphia. Made captain by an act of Congress, but without a frigate to command, Decatur has charge of the gunboat squadron through the bombardments of Tripoli and is charged with several diplomatic missions.
Along with learning the pain of sending men on missions from which they may not return, Decatur must deal with politics. Stephen has to swallow his outrage and disappointment when Commodore Preble, his irascible but fearless mentor, is replaced by commanders who - at least in Decatur's eyes - can never fill his shoes. He must also deal with tangled European politics. Britain is at war with France and has no time and little sympathy for the war with the Barbary states. France is actually sympathetic to Tripoli because Britain has opened Malta to the Americans. The United States' support from the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies slowly evaporates as the Neapolitans watch Napoleon's inexorable progress down the Italian peninsula.
Hoyt is too good a historian to embellish the action, so the book reads like novelized history rather than adventure fiction in a historical setting. The action scenes are thrilling, but in between we are reading history as seen through Decatur's eyes. The book is a good read, but Hoyt seems to have lost some of the fire that pulled readers through the earlier books. If you are at all interested in this piece of history, read the book, by all means.
Description of: Decatur's Revenge
Author: Edwin P. Hoyt