The third Aubrey/Maturin book opens in the fall of 1804. Jack has survived another court martial and is given command of the "Surprise." Stephen has been captured by the Spanish and is being held and tortured on Minorca, so Jack and his junior officers effect a daring rescue. Most of the book is taken up by an 1805 voyage across the Indian Ocean to the East Indies on an abortive trip to deliver an ambassador to Malaya. Stephen escapes death a second time after being accidentally marooned on a desert island through a storm and several days of deadly heat. During a stop in Bombay, he proposes marriage to Diana Villiers, who is the kept mistress of Mr. Canning, a wealthy Jewish merchant, and tries to buy the freedom of a desperately poor Indian girl to be his servant. Near the climax, the "Surprise" battles a small French squadron under Commander Linois to protect a huge British commercial convoy worth six millions, and Stephen is forced to fight a duel with pistols against Canning. O'Brian was definitely on a roll by the time this novel first appeared, in 1973.
This report prepared by David Loftus