This ninth volume in Patrick O'Brian's beloved Aubrey-Maturin series is full of suspense, taking on the role of both nautical adventure and spy story. The polished prose vividly evokes the nineteenth century atmosphere.
All of O'Brian's strengths are on parade in this novel of action and intrigue, set partly in Malta, partly in the treacherous, pirate-infested waters of the Red Sea. While Captain Jack Aubrey worries about repairs to his ship, the HMS Surprise, Stephen Maturin assumes the center stage, for the stockyards and salons of Malta are alive with Napoleon's agents and the admiralty's intelligence network is compromised. Maturin's cunning is the sole bulwark against sabotage of Aubrey's daring mission.