cover image The Ionian Mission

The Ionian Mission

Patrick O'Brian. W. W. Norton & Company, $14.95 (367pp) ISBN 978-0-393-30821-1

This entry in the Aubrey/Maturin series (see above review of The Surgeon's Mate ) finds Captain Jack Aubrey ``shoved into a temporary command in that rotten old Worcester ,'' a poorly built ship. Worse, he's off to the Mediterranean to join the Royal Navy's endless blockade of the French port of Toulon. Aside from a chance encounter with a French man-of-war that triggers a brief but extremely colorful battle, there is little excitement as HMS Worcester settles in with the other blockading ships, some with crews showing signs of strain from remaining constantly alert but inactive. Second in command at Toulon is Admiral Harte, no friend of Aubrey's (who cuckolded the admiral years ago). Harte dispatches Aubrey on a delicate mission to the politically volatile Ionian coast. Although he has the succor of Stephen Maturin, a seasoned intelligence agent, and Professor Graham, an expert on the region's customs, Aubrey is caught in a complex net of Turkish politics and rivalries. And while Harte seems to offer all reasonable backing for the mission, Aubrey knows that should he fail, the admiral would like nothing better than to throw him to the dogs. (Jan.)