This fourth novel in the "Alan Lewrie" series is something of a departure, its heavily political (rather than simply naval) plot dictated by the end of the American Revolution in 1783. Lewrie finds himself back in London on a lieutenant's half-pay, subsisting comfortably (as long as he watches his expenses) and indulging his taste for sex with as many women as he can, of any age or marital status. But he's caught 'en flagrante' by an elderly husband -- once his patron, but no longer -- who wants his blood. Just as he's packing for his escape from the city, timely orders arrive from the Admiralty to report immediately to Plymouth, . . . and he's off on another adventure, this time as junior officer on a semi-secret mission to India and Canton, fighting Malay pirates who are in league with a French-backed privateer. The political leader of the mission, Mr. Twigg, is as bloody-minded a secret agent as you will find, perfectly willing to torture and murder surrendered prisoners to get the information he wants. Definitely not a nice person. And in India, Lewrie meets up again with his father, who had stolen from him, set him up with his supposed half-sister, had him essentially shanghaied into the navy, and then decamped to escape his creditors. But now we get the other side of his father's story and, while Sir Hugo retains nearly all his faults, he certainly becomes a more rounded character. Captain Choundas, on the other hand, is vicious, sexually perverted, and one-hundred-percent evil -- and since he survives the final fight with Lewrie, I would be very surprised if he did not return in future installments, probably as an agent of the French revolutionary government. Not as successful as the previous book, but I'll certainly keep reading -- though I hope the author will reduce his use of exclamation points!!!