This time out, Captain Jack Aubrey and ship's surgeon Stephen Maturin limp home from America for a brief rest before sailing to the Baltic to subvert the occupying Catalan troops--and then to the Bay of Biscay to run aground. The dashing Aubrey/Maturin naval tales (among others, The Ionian Mission--see above) continue to come out in intervals from England, where they are hugely and deservedly popular. Published some years ago in the UK, they've been arriving out of order, so readers find themselves sorting out prequels from sequels. But shipping arrangements do no damage to these polished, historically accurate, and intensely pleasurable tales of the Royal Navy in the Napoleonic era. Anglo-Iberian physician and spy Stephen Maturin is again the linchpin, providing the excuse for his dashing friend Aubrey to flee the mess he has made of his British investments. Aboard H.M.S Ariel, Aubrey transports Maturin to the Baltic, where the doctor will use his linguistic skills and impeccable Catalan separatist credentials to convince Spanish troops holding Baltic islands for Napoleon that they should desert the Corsican monster and throw their lot in with England. The Baltic mission is successful, but the subsequent flight from Scandinavia runs into the rocks off the French coast. The officers are taken prisoner and transported to Paris, where they dine handsomely on meals cooked by a pretty widow as they await execution. Splendid escape. Literate and amusing.