A World War II naval yam of the old-fashioned sort, which picks up interest and energy as it nears its melodramatic climax. Commander Andrew Lindsay of the British navy, whose destroyer was torpedoed, is assigned the very unprestigious job of captaining the H.M.S. Benbecula, an armed merchant cruiser fitted out from an old passenger and cargo ship. It serves convoy duty and patrols the frosty north Atlantic in those early days of the war between Dunkirk and the first Allied victories, hopelessly outnumbered by faster and better-equipped German U-boats and cruisers intent on destroying Britain's old dominion of the seas. But Lindsay, despite insomniac visions of his torpedoed ship, manages to mold the crew into the best of the upper-lip tradition, as they earn a rep for fierceness by sinking a German U-boat and then engage in a suicidal (albeit victorious) attack on a battleship in order to save a desperately needed convoy of troopships and goods -- all while his WREN fiancee looks on in admiration and disbelief, as perhaps the cynical reader might. But it is rather entertaining -- perhaps somewhat better than that -- in its exploration of the dynamics that transform indifferent strangers into a group that is willing to die for God, country, and each other.