Someone mentions Jack Aubrey and at once you think of sea battles and naval history, you may not think of Stock Exchange frauds and court cases, but that is exactly what we have here. Of course there is some sea action, this book takes up after Master and Commander, so even if you only saw the film you have a rough idea of what to expect.. Aubrey and the crew of the Surprise have been off protecting whalers and most of this book is set either on their way home, or back in England.
Jack has problems of his own, a young black catholic man who has a remarkable similarity to Jack turns up, but Stephen isn’t carefree either. His wife appears to have left him, and there is trouble in the intelligence agency.
But I don’t really read these books for the plot. I read them because of the way they are written, the characters that shine and the wonderful language. It is also interesting the way Jack notes that the colourful coats he’s used to are no longer fashionable. More and more fashion calls for black coats. Well, maybe you don’t find that interesting, but I did.
Plus, the more I read around this whole general time period the more I enjoy these books. Phrases I read in Heyer’s books turn up here too, things “don’t signify.” A saying I now intend to use all the time, so be prepared.
I particularly liked Jack’s unshakable belief in the English justice system, his absolute knowledge that once he tells the jury the truth nothin could possibly go wrong. Not to mention Stephen’s attempts to dissuade him of this notion:
“They are men who tend to resign their own conscience to another’s keeping, or to disregard it entirely. To the question ‘what are you’re sentiments when you are asked to defend a man you know to be quilty?’ many will reply ‘I do not know to be guilty until the judge, who has heard both sides, states that he is guilty.’ … standing up in a court for which ever side has paid upi, affecting warmth and conviction, and doing everything you can to win the case, whatever your private opinion may be, will soon dull any fine sense of honour. The mercenary soldier is not a valued creature, but at least he risks his life, whereas these men merely risk their next fee.”