The second (and, sadly, penultimate) volume in the series of maritime mysteries set during the Napoleonic Wars and featuring British Royal Navy officer Bartholomew Hoare, who in his first outing (Hoare and the Portsmouth Atrocities, 1998) was grievously wounded in combat. Now partially disabled and almost literally voiceless, Hoare has nevertheless remained active as an astute Navy sleuth. Napoleon, efficiently terrorizing Europe and engaging the aroused British on land and sea, brings (now Captain) Hoare a prestigious command: that of the Royal Duke, whose crew comprises a group of nicely differentiated specialists in the demanding art of espionage (though they’re amusingly dysfunctional as seamen and -women). But before the Duke initially casts off, the decapitated bodies of two fellow officers are discovered near the Nine Stones Circle, in the Dorchester moor country (echoes of Thomas Hardy are faintly heard), and Bartholomew is again obliged to play detective. He succeeds with flying colors in another swiftly paced adventure effectively varied by scenes showing his ongoing courtship of sprightly Eleanor Graves, a heroine who’s in every way his match, and who manages to have the quite commanding last word. An excellent sequel that stands squarely on its own feet while creating an eager appetite for Hoare’s third and final adventure.