Captain Percival Merewether of the British East India Company's Bombay Marine is, by this third 18th-century adventure, bowsprit-to-prow with Horatio Hornblower in plot-rigging and speed. Here Captain Merewether becomes more involved than usual with women (there are two malicious beauties in addition to his pregnant wife Caroline) and again he runs into hierarchical tangles between engagements. After taking command of the Pitt, which will see much action, Merewether puts down a mutiny, neutralizes an overbearing first lieutenant, devastates a fort in two hours--""a classic example of sea power""--almost surrenders his ship, and struggles with a loss of confidence. The Gulf of Aden, Bay of Bengal, and South China Sea all thunder with volleys and echo with plots and counterplots. At the close Merewether, a new father and Knight of the Garter, decides to leave the service. All ship buffs who appreciate careful diagrams of battle strategy will hope Merewether soon reverses that decision.