You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Reverse of the Medal

Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin continue their adventures in The Reverse of the Medal, the eleventh installment of Patrick O'Brian's series.

The story starts in the West Indies, where the Surprise is resupplying after a tour in the Pacific. Jack gets a visit from a young man who turns out to be his illegitimate son from a black woman. The young man brings a letter from Jack's wife, whom he met in England. Meanwhile, Stephen is trying to figure out what to do with a large sum of money he found secreted on a ship.

Jack takes the Surprise across the Atlantic while searching for the Spartan, a privateer that has been harassing British ships. They nearly catch the Spartan with a ruse but it gets away, and a chase ensues. They end up running into the British blockade fleet and losing the privateer.

Back at the port, Surprise is paid off and readied to be sold off. Jack and Stephen take care of some long waiting business. The hotel where Stephen stayed has burned down. He has to talk to his superiors about his intelligence work. While tying up loose ends, Jack runs into a man who gives him a tip about stocks that will rise with a rumored peace. Not knowing any better, Jack puts money on the stocks and tells his father about it.

When Jack gets home, he finds his wife and children are away. After a couple of days of cricket with some of their shipmates, his wife Sophie comes home. Very soon a constable knocks on their door and announces that Jack is under arrest. He was worried about being arrest for debt, but it turns out he is being arrested for stock fraud. Jack hadn't realized that he was being used as part of a stock scheme. Because his father is a radical, the powers decide to go after jack with the full force of the law.

Legal maneuvers ensue, while Stephen tries to get Jack good legal help and also buy the Surprise, so that he and Jack can turn it into a privateer. Stephen takes Pullings to the auction for Surprise, and they win it. When Stephen returns, the trial is over, and Jack is guilty. He is sentenced to pay a fine and endure one day in the stocks. Stephen gets his letter of marque, turns over his large sum of money, and gets in touch with a French agent of his acquaintance. The French agent returns a large diamond that belongs to Stephen, and announces he wishes to travel to Canada in return for information. Finally he discloses that Ray, Stephen's colleague, is actually a double agent working for the French.

The story is a good one, and takes some surprising turns. Jack's confidence and acumen at sea fail him on land, where he easily falls prey to con men. Stephen, as usual, takes command of business on land. They only reason he hadn't suspected Ray was because he thought the man was too incompetent for the French to want him as an agent. Stephen also faces disappointment with his wife, Diana, who has left him for another man. She believed the intrigue in the letters that were sent to her, about Stephen running around with another woman. She is contrasted by Sophie, who rejoices at seeing Jack despite the illegitimate son. Jack gets caught up in politics, despite being a political, while Stephen, the intelligence agent, manages to avoid any trouble or entanglements.

I think it's a B+. Compared to other books in the series, it lacks some of the excitement of the high seas. The intrigue on land is still dramatic. Jack being convicted and struck from the Navy's list is unexpected, as is Stephen's purchase of the Surprise. The characters' adventures on land are interesting, especially Stephen's dealing with the intelligence agency. With the Surprise as their own, it should be interesting to see what happens next.


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