Another in O'Brian's stylish epic series devoted to the exploits of Captain Jack Aubrey, his close friend and traveling companion Dr. Steven Maturin, and the men who share their ships--and their adventures--on the high seas of a world nearly two centuries gone. We pick up Aubrey and the crew right where we left them in The Thirteen Gun Salute (p. 496), shipwrecked in the South China Sea after having seen the British envoy they had been carrying sent to a watery grave as a result of his impetuous actions. After a bloody battle with Aborigine invaders and an unexpected rescue, Aubrey is given command of the small Dutch ship whose name serves as the title of this volume. He then overtakes and tricks a French frigate into following him to his rendezvous with his beloved man-of-war, Surprise, leading to the capture of the enemy ship forthwith. Then it's off to the Solomon Islands, where the seagoers rescue two young girls from an island stricken with smallpox, and ultimately to Sydney, where Maturin is provoked into a duel, complicating relationships with officials ashore (as do the two rescued children). The doctor, who is somewhat bemused throughout by his apparently fallen fortunes (thanks to a banking decision made in the previous novel), is, as always, the tale's most interesting character and constantly preoccupied with flora, fauna, and good conversation, not to mention the sumptuous food and drink that he and Aubrey seem to enjoy even in the midst of battle. Witty, literate, and engaging--as Aubrey himself might say, "capital work indeed."