Months after the storm at sea in which Captain Josiah Markham perished, H.M.S. Adventure returns to England. Aboard her--among 150 rowdy seamen--are Tom Durham, stepson of Bow Street Court Magistrate Sir John Fielding, and acting captain Lt. James Hartsell, bursting with an accusation quite recently lodged: That he saw Lt. William Landon push Capt. Markham overboard. Drawn into the case by his interest in Tom, a former criminal remitted two years ago to the Adventure, and by the entreaties of his old friend Vice-Admiral Sir Robert Redmond, Landon's uncle, for his expertise in examining witnesses, blind Sir John (Murder in Grub Street, 1995, etc.) finds himself outside his jurisdiction and his authority. The harder he works to vindicate dispirited Landon, the more Sir Robert seems to set his face against the accused. The search for witnesses who can refute Hartsell's story takes Jeremy Proctor, Sir John's boy Friday, from ship to shore, through eye-opening conversations with lascars and bawds and Black Jack Bilbo's surprisingly delicate lecture on the facts of life. But the story runs out of steam and surprises long before the end, leaving only those two old lions Sir Robert and Sir John to settle their differences. Period buffs may savor Alexander's 1769 take on A Few Good Men. Even fans of Sir John, however, will probably judge his third outing his weakest.