The Baltic Gambit is the last of the Alan Lewrie novels that have been published. Dewey Lambdin is working on a new volume which is scheduled for release early in 2010. This novel covers the career of Alan Lewrie through the Battle of Copenhagen.
January 1801 finds Captain Alan Lewrie with his life in jeopardy based on a death sentence handed down by a Jamaican court in the matter of his stealing slaves belonging to the wealthy, and as it turned out persistent and vindictive, Beauman family. His legal contretemps cost him command of HMS Savage and with no future employment in sight he no longer has a retinue of followers who are allowed to move with him from ship to ship.
Major spoilers follow.
When Lewrie arrives at Old Bailey he is greeted an adoring crowd. Lewrie’s mood improves considerably when he learns from his barrister than the Beaumans and their entourage have suddenly departed England rather than have to swear to their testimony on pain of perjury.
Rather than accept a dismissal of the most serious charge, which would leave open the possibility of another court action by the Beaumans in the future, Lewrie’s barrister convinces the presiding judge to hold a trial on the issue of whether or not Lewrie accepted stolen property. The Beauman’s barrister is not prepared for the case, having taken the Jamaican verdict at face value and Lewrie is speedily acquitted.
The acquittal is bittersweet. His former comrades from Savage returned to that ship after testifying and his longtime steward, Aspinall, has asked for discharge from the navy to tend for his aging mother. He is still estranged from his wife, Caroline, and without a ship he is at loose ends.
War with the League of the North is looking imminent and Lewrie reads as much as he can on the area but when he visits the Admiralty to ask for a ship, he is told in no uncertain terms that he shouldn’t count on ever commanding a ship again.
He encounters the lovely Eudoxia Durshenko but any romance if forestalled by her ever present and seemingly dangerous father. He is pursued by Theoni Connor, his mistress whose meeting Caroline and the subsequent public scene had caused him to be in a state of disfavor with the Admiralty, who is increasingly distressed as he tries to end their relationship.
Amidst this ennui Zachariah Twigg, foreign office spymaster, reappears and invites Lewrie to dinner. For a while the conversation covers world affairs and politics, primarily the looming war with Denmark, Prussia, Sweden, and Russia. Then Twigg announces that his people have uncovered the identity of the person who has been sending Caroline the “dear friend” letters detailing Lewrie’s amours. Twigg offers to visit Caroline and try to set things right between her and Lewrie and Lewrie accepts.
In addition to that bit of news, Twigg also tells him that William Pitt is about to step down as Prime Minister which means there will be new leadership at the Admiralty.
Lewrie decides that the writing of damaging letters to Caroline has to stop and plans his own campaign to force the writer to stop, a campaign which appears to be successful in the short run.
Estranged from his family and unemployed, Lewrie seeks solace in female companionship which he finds in a bordello run by Mother Batson. While his favorite courtesan offers diversion he also runs afoul of one of her clients.
With Pitt’s resignation as Prime Minister, Lewrie sets out of call on the new First Lord of the Admiralty, Lord St. Vincent, under whom he’d served in the Mediterranean. He shortly receives command of HMS Thermopylae and finds that his first lieutenant is Arthur Ballard, who was his first lieutenant on HMS Alacrity. Thermopylae looks like it is slated to join Admiral Hyde Parker in the Baltic. While preparing his ship, Lewrie makes the acquaintance of Captain Edward Riou who will be commanding Parker’s frigates.
Lewrie’s happiness is suddenly interrupted by his finding out that he will once again be acting under instructions of the Foreign Office’s intelligence service though this time his instructions will be coming from Thomas Mountjoy, the brother of his solicitor who was his clerk aboard HMS Jester.
His mission is to transport two Russian noblemen from England to Russia where they will attempt to convince the Russian Czar to not enter into a state of armed neutrality aimed at Britain. Despite a conflict between Lewrie and one of the Russians, they are put safely ashore in Russia with only a passing incident. That incident does, however, finally rupture his relationship with his first lieutenant.
Having finished this mission, they look into various Russian and Swedish ports as they proceed back to Denmark to gauge the readiness of the League for war. Off Copenhagen they find the British fleet preparing to attack. After Lewrie has a difficult audience with an ailing Nelson, Thermopylae is assigned to the group of frigates commanded by Captain Riou. Thermopylae participates in the battle and acquits itself well, in the process Lieutenant Ballard is mortally wounded and Lewrie discovers that his reputation in the fleet has come with a price.
In the aftermath of the battle, mail from London reveals his legal problems are, indeed, over for good and there is a mysterious letter from Caroline.