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.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Letter of Marque

The Letter of Marque is the twelve novel in Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series. Jack and Stephen take the Surprise, formerly a ship of the Royal Navy, on a new mission as a privateer. Jack has been discharged from the service due to a politically motivated conviction in a war profiteering case. He commands the Surprise with Tom Pullings as his first mate, and other men who have served under him before.

In their first voyage out, they capture the privateer Spartan after a long search and a fierce battle. Then they successfully impersonate the Spartan and signal the ships she has captured to come out of their safe port, taking them one by one. Jack and Stephen return to England much richer with all the prizes.

Stephen attempts to help Jack get reinstated to the navy, but Jack refuses to ask for a pardon on the grounds that it would be admitting his guilt. Jack learns that his father has died, and goes to his father's home for the funeral. His young stepmother (whom he had once bedded earlier in life) stays in her bedroom. He meets old friends and sees his young half-brother, who spends most of his time at boarding school. One of the old friends offers Jack his father's seat in Parliament. This would help his dealings with the government, and guarantee his reinstatement.

Jack takes the Surprise back out in anticipation of capturing the French navy frigate Diane. He meets his former lieutenant Babbington, and with his help, manages a daring capture of the Diane while she is in port in St. Martin's.

Later, as Jack takes the Surprise into the Baltic, Stephen takes a passage on the Leopard to Sweden to find his estranged wife Diana. After stopping at a pharmacy to get some opium, he finds Diana and they have a friendly reunion. But Stephen ends up taking too much of the opium because his assistant had been stealing the ship's opium and diluting it. He ends up carried to the waiting Surprise, and Diana boards with him.

This book has a good blend of action and personal story. Jack gets to spend time with his wife Sophie and Stephen gets to reunite with his wife Diana, who he has agonized over for two and a half books. We get insight into Jack's character as he deals with his discharge from the navy, his new role as privateer captain, and his father's death. There is not as much action as most of the stories, though the suspense is still there during the long search for the first privateer. It's great to see Stephen reconcile with Diana. And there's also more plot development with Stephen and his intelligence activities. I'll give it an A-.


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