The hero of Cornwell's Sharpe series (Sharpe's Revenge, etc.) reluctantly abandons his Norman hearth and home to search for an old friend gone missing in revolutionary Chile. En route to the new world, there's a stopover on St. Helena and a visit to Sharpe's old adversary, the imprisoned Bonaparte. The Napoleonic wars are over. The Corsican monster is safely imprisoned in the South Atlantic; Sharpe's unloved wife is safely settled back in England; and Lieutenant-Colonel Sharpe himself has happily settled into the role of gentleman-farmer, tending to the fields of his aristocratic French mistress, watching his illegitimate children frolic. The bucolic bliss ends, however, with the arrival of Louisa, Countess of Mouromorto, who has come from Spain to beg the retired British rifleman to sail to South America to search for her husband, Sharpe's old friend and comrade-in-arms Don Bias Vivar. The incorruptible Don Bias had gone to Chile to defend the rotten Spanish colonial government against upstart republicans, but he has not been seen or heard from in months. Since Louisa will pay handsomely for his services and since the chateau is in desperate need of repairs, Sharpe reluctantly accepts the commission, hires on his favorite old sergeant, Patrick Harper, and sails round the Horn. His reception is chilly. The colonial general, who should be helping Sharpe, makes nothing but trouble, and Sharpe eventually finds himself becoming more and more sympathetic to the rebels who fight under a disgraced Scottish nobleman. Cornwen, one of the great naval writers of this era, finds a way to get his intrepid army hero to sea for much of the story--without in the least compromising the high standards of this first-rate series.