McCutchan's 43rd book (most are naval novels) returns Lieutenant St. Vincent Halfhyde RN for his fourth big adventure, his second bout with the comic villain Admiral Prince Gorsinski of the Russian navy, and for his first solo command. As ever, he is cuttingly amusing and has his ""predilection towards arguments with seniors"" to control. Indeed, he's soon performing with greater seamanship than his superior officer Captain Watkiss, whose singleminded brain is like a lump of metal and who runs aground in the Bosporus while Halfhyde flouts orders and sails the narrows. This is the age of changeover from sail to steam, and his first command is of a sizable metal torpedo boat, part of a flotilla of torpedo boats commanded by Watkiss. Their mission is to seize and return the Falls of Dochart, a British merchantman impounded by the Russians and in harbor somewhere beyond the enemy gun-batteries mounted on the tall fortresses beetling over the Dardanelles narrows. This is the best Halfhyde adventure so far (though his misadventures on halfpay and with his landlady are absent here), perhaps because of the sheer number of expert foils that McCutchan has surrounded him with, in Watkiss, Gorsinski, and his junior officer Mr. Prebble, and: a false Queen Victoria standing on his bridge at the height of the action!