Sober, brave British sailor Donald Cameron (Cameron in the Gap, p. 202) is now First Lieutenant aboard the corvette Oleander--which leaves Freetown in November 1942 for Gibraltar, all aboard eager to play a role in the Allied invasion of North Africa. At first the Oleander has only a minor function: drawing enemy fire off the North African coast while other vessels take the offensive. But then a Free French captain comes aboard, with a plea for the Oleander to organize an armed patrol along a French ""mole"" (pier) near the shore. And eventually the British seamen become deeply involved in a crucial Free French expedition: the Nazis have stockpiled two million ""small bombs"" of anthrax in Beni Saf, intending to devastate North Africa if the Allied invasion threatens to succeed; a brigade of Free French paratroopers is determined to capture the base where the poisons are stored; Capt. Forrest of the Oleander, with shaky nerves but stoic strength, agrees to bring the Frenchmen to the shore near Beni Saf. . . after some skirmishes with Nazi air attacks. Finally, however, the French paratroopers are annihilated during their mini-invasion--so Cameron leads a small team of Oleander crewmen into Beni Saf, taking over the mission and (with help from a local sheik) managing to pave the way for British capture of the Nazi base. As usual, McCutchan's action sequences are varied, authentic, and gritty. Also as usual, his attempts at characterization are limp and corny--this time featuring a loathsome, cowardly officer (a lawyer in civilian life), a seaman obsessed with pinups, and assorted lower-class heroes (always in contrast to middle/upper-class wimps). Only for WW II naval-warfare buffs, then, with Cameron himself even more of a blank than in previous episodes.