Patrick O'Brian,
The Ionian Mission
(William Collins Sons & Co, 1981;
W.W. Norton, 1992)

In The Ionian Mission, Captain Jack Aubrey and his crew spend a great portion of the story in a vital but slow-acting blockade of French naval forces in the Mediterranean. His ship, the Worcester, is large and powerful but unwieldy and failing in its age. The admiral in charge of the blockade is failing, too, and needs a decisive action to restore his confidence and vigor. But will the French cooperate? While the French forces outnumber the British, the outcome of a naval action is by no means certain.

But then global politics intrudes, and Aubrey -- back aboard his beloved frigate Surprise and with a hand-picked crew at his disposal -- is sent to deal with matters of succession and allegiance in a foreign arena that could, if successfully orchestrated, cost France a formidable tactical base.

Diplomacy, of course, is not Aubrey's strongest suit.

There's shipboard poetry, too. Take that as you will.

The Ionian Mission offers a different sort of naval intrigue, pitting Aubrey and his crew against challenges quite unlike those they've faced and overcome before. The climax includes a fierce, bloody engagement against fierce Turkish fighters that leads directly into the next book and will have readers running for the closest library or bookstore.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 27 November 2004

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