England is still at war with Napoleon when the curtain rises on this third and final adventure for Captain Bartholomew Hoare (Hoare and the Headless Captains, 1999, etc.). The doughty hero, his voice nearly destroyed years ago by a musket ball in the throat, has just married widow Eleanor Graves in a ceremony aboard the Royal Duke, docked in Weymouth. Soon after the wedding, Admiral Sir Hugh Abercrombie confides in Hoare his fear that Sir Thomas Frobisher and John Goldthwait are acting as spies for the French, and Hoare sets about exploring the possibilities. His search takes him to London, where he buys a number of portrait sketches by the artist Pickering. But he still has not found Goldthwait when he returns to Greenwich, where Sir Hugh lies stabbed to death. And there's worse: On his arrival at Dirty Mill, the new home Eleanor has set up for them, he finds his bride and her adopted daughter Jenny missing, and the servant girl Agnes raped and bloody. An unsigned letter demands the Pickering sketches, directs him to the kidnapper, and promises the return of his family. Soon enough, Hoare finally tracks down the elusive Goldthwait along with Sir Thomas Frobisher, who is convinced he is the rightful king of England. A heroic rescue insures that the villains get their just deserts.
Crammed with minor characters, subplots, and confrontations, along with a surfeit of ship and sailing lore. Lovers of sea stories and English history will be saddened that Perkins's death in 1999 has brought the series to an end.