This is the fourth of the Hornblower books in terms of internal chronology, and it is now 1806. Hornblower has had a short leave ashore and hurries back to London with his wife to take up his new command – the HMS Atropos, a 22-gun sloop.
His first mission is a somewhat curious one – he is in charge of some of the funeral arrangements for Lord Nelson who died in the Battle of Trafalgar. His job is to co-ordinate the many ceremonial barges down the Thames. He takes the task very seriously and pours his considerable energy into it, but even so, narrowly averts trouble as the barge with Nelson’s coffin springs a leak and is close to sinking.
Next, he is ordered to set sail for the Mediterranean in the Atropos and saddled with a very problematic new midshipman – a deposed prince from a German principality taken by Napoleon. In Gibraltar, he picks up a diving master and his divers, and then he sets off to Turkey to recover a sunken treasure consisting of British pay money that were sunk to avoid capture.
The treasure is hard to get at, and only Ceylonese pearl divers are able to manage to dive at the required depts. The challenge is also to get the money up and out without the Turks finding out about it and without causing a diplomatic incident. As the treasure is located close to the coast of Turkey and near a Turkish fort, this turns out to be a complicated task.
Hornblower manages to get the money, or at least most of it, up. But with a Turkish frigate nearby that is capable of outgunning his ship – will he be able to get the money out of Turkish waters and back to his own?
Hornblower and the Atropos is an OK read, but not among the best books in the series. It is amusing and entertaining, but also sometimes a little annoying – I simply did not like the first 50 pages or so. It also has less naval action in it than most of the books in the series. If you want to read to the whole series, you will want to read it. Otherwise, this is not the best book to start reading if you are new to the Hornblower saga (the Hornblower saga is also available on DVD).