This is easily the weakest installment in this series so far. While it is certainly readable, it is seriously flawed. First, there is almost no action at sea, which is the primary reason I read these books. Pope was very good at describing action at sea but, in general, his skills as a writer were only average. The plot is very thin, and the book really drags in the middle. The action picks up some at the end, but not enough to be really satisfying. The main problem with this book is that it just doesn't generate much suspense. Also, Ramage himself does very little in this book; he is just along for the ride as the smugglers and his subordinates do almost all the work. This book is not a total loss, however. I thought the details of the smuggling trade were interesting, and the picture Pope paints of France during the Napoleonic War is very vivid and interesting. Pope portrays France as a country tearing itself apart even as its Grand Army was conquering most of Europe. The government would execute a citizen simply because someone accused him or her of being a Royalist. This, of course, was a good way for a person to get rid of a personal enemy or business rival. It reminded me of what conditions must have been like in Stalinist Russia, where a paranoid government had its agents keeping a close watch on everyone. So, overall, it's not a terrible book, but I look forward to Ramage getting back to sea in the next installment.