The British destroyer H.M.S. Phoenix, an old ship commanded by veteran Navy man Clive Halton, has come to the fictional Africa-coast country of Zambesia on a good-will mission: the former colony is now threatened by ""local communists."" Just hours after the British arrival, in fact, there's an attempted communist coup--so Halton must scramble to get all his crew back on board. And though the coup doesn't really succeed on land, communist leader John Rhaman (a British-trained Navy man) has a firm hold on the Zambesian Navy: from the cruiser Alched, he can control the capital-city port and terrorize the civilian population. Furthermore, Chinese ships are on their way to help Rhaman impose communism on Zambesia. Can Halton and the Phoenix somehow disarm the Alched--at least until British reinforcements arrive? Well, things look bad at first, especially when Rhaman's confederates ashore take some Britishers hostage. But then, once the hostages escape, Halton almost manages to plant mines aboard the Alched. More important, after a mini-battle that leaves the Phoenix damaged and sinking, Halton cleverly tricks one of the arriving Chinese ships: the British board the enemy vessel, take it over, and emerge victorious in a final harbor battle. (""It would be a very long time before China tried to interfere in Africa again."") Naive jingoistic politics, stuffy amateur prose, and a facelessly noble Commander-hero: only for the most tolerant British Navy buffs.