It is 1797 when Kydd, now a master's mate, sails to the fabled Rock of Gibraltar - the uttermost end of Europe, the finality of a continent. There, in an attempt to win the heart of a lady, he volunteers to join a dangerous mission to Venice to rescue a diplomat fleeing over the Alps in the wake of Buonaparte's victories. With his enigmatic, high-born friend, Nicholas Renzi, Kydd experiences the tumultuous, heady last days of the Venetian republic.
Back in Gibraltar, Kydd sets sail for England, desperately longed-for after many years' absence, and becomes centrally involved in one of the most extraordinary events in English history - the Mutiny at the Nore. Ten thousand men, one thousand guns and scores of ships hold the country to ransom, the government is near collapse, the economy on the brink of ruin.
The insurrection fails - but the Dutch Fleet at Texel now threatens the very survival of England; should they prevail the country will be lost to the French in hours. In the bloody Battle of Camperdown that ensues, Kydd and Renzi experience all the horror of a major Fleet action, but emerge victorious.
The book is based on dramatic true events that have seldom been written about before.
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