This novel continues not long after The Far Side of the World left off. The Surprise stops off in Barbados, then chases an American privateer almost to England. Jack Aubrey, astute at sea, but a naïf on land, is hoodwinked into causing a run on the stock market, and brought to trial. Stephen Maturin finds that his wife has left him and that his former superior in Naval Intelligence has been sidelined.
O’Brian moves effortlessly from a naval chase to the rural pleasures of Aubrey’s cottage to Regency politics, all written in a convincing eighteenth-century style. Aubrey and Maturin are emotionally true. Jack is the bluff English patriot whose unshakeable faith in English justice will be severely tested. Stephen, the complex scientist, is beleagured by betrayals both personal and professional.