Top critical review
A meandering plot
on October 5, 2002
This is the 10th novel in a series about Royal Navy officer Alan Lewrie. It would be difficult to understand large portions of the plot without reading the earlier novels. After the previous novels ("Jester's Fortune," etc.), this one was a disappointment. The novel starts with Lewrie out on the town with his father, with a broken arm and an indication of troubles with his wife. The author then uses one chapter to flash back to Camperdown to explain the broken arm, and a second chapter to flash back to earlier in the day and a very public confrontation with his wife. Considering Caroline's past use of a pistol (see "the Gun Ketch"), Lewrie is lucky to come away with his hide intact.
Lewrie finds himself somewhat out of favor at the Admiralty, and is sent off to the West Indies (at least he has a command). The author tends to use large amounts of space on trivia, while barely mentioning things of significance (delivering dispatches to Admiral Jervis is covered in a sentence). There are places where the story seems to move forward in jumps. Old acquaintances are dragged into the story here and there as Lewrie is finally back into action in a series of engagements, either with the enemy or with available women. The losses from tropical fevers are described by Frederick Hoffman in his autobiography, "A Sailor of King George."
The novel seems to alternate between naval action, discussions of moral philosophy, short discourses on history or geography, and incidents in Lewrie's love life. The story is left unfinished. Caroline has thrown him out and wants most of his assets, his young daughter publicly calls him a sinner, his sons have been sent off to a boarding school, one of his friends wants him as a second in a planned duel, and the evil Choundos is back. The story has graphic sexual content which does not improve a mediocre novel.