A sequel to The Mauritius Command (1970), which was the opening salvo in the Capt. Jack Aubrey series about the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. Once again Jack's dear friend Dr. Stephen Maturin is also aboard, so they have the opportunity to indulge themselves in their cello and violin duets. And the romantic intrigue this time is supplied by French agent Mrs. Wogan, who's been captured by the British and is being shipped as a prisoner to Botany Bay aboard Aubrey's new command, the Leopard. Aubrey has been having a hard time ashore, losing a fortune gambling and buying horses while his wife frets silently with the children, and it's much against his will that he accepts the commission to haul convicts to Australia. On the other hand, Dr. Maturin is fighting an addiction to tincture of laudanum, and needs the time at sea. (He is soon masterfully fighting shipboard plague, tooth decay, and scurvy.) A battle with a Dutch ship in Antarctic waters ruins the Leopard's rudder, and the ship lays over at Desolation Island until a passing American vessel can be induced to give them a forge. The usual action ensues--but O'Brian's literate, clear-eyed realism should draw a slightly broader audience than most nautical fare.