The ‘horrible old Leopard’ limps into the Spice Islands after its terrible adventures around the world, but although Aubrey is longing for home, his voyage is not destined to be easy. War is declared between England and America, and following adventures in the South Pacific, both Aubrey and Maturin, with their crew, are eventually taken captive by the Americans. When the spy Louisa Wogan escaped at Desolation Island, bearing with her a poisoned chalice of false information, it was a result of Stephen’s stratagems. Now, he himself risks exposure as the agent who tricked her – not least because one of the highest members of American Intelligence is none other than the protector of Diana Villiers. It is a deadly game and for Stephen Maturin more is at stake than just his life.
Featuring naval battles based on historical events, such as the one between the USS Chesapeake and HMS Shannon, this novel takes the series into fascinating historical territory, while Stephen, Diana Villiers and the American Harry Johnson become further enmeshed both in a love triangle and in a web of international intrigue.
Read more about the life and work of Patrick O'Brian
In 1991, an article appeared in The New York Times entitled ‘An Author I’d Walk the Plank For’. Like millions of readers around the world, the writer, Richard Snow, had become addicted to Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey–Maturin series. Set against the sprawling canvas of the Napoleonic Wars, O’Brian’s naval adventure novels evoke this period in history like no others. Their success is down to the vim and vigour of O’Brian’s prose, his extraordinary eye for period detail and his ear for language. In Snow’s words: ‘O’Brian summoned up with casual omniscience the workaday magic of a vanished time.’
The partnership between Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin is at the heart of Patrick O’Brian’s masterful series. Beyond the beautifully textured period setting and the thrilling skirmishes and naval battles (many based on real events), the popularity of the novels stems from these two engaging, intriguing protagonists, with Aubrey’s passionate nature providing a marvellous foil for Maturin’s more enigmatic character. Two centuries may separate us from them, but O’Brian creates an utterly compelling portrait of two men and a world at war.