The ninth novel in Patrick O’Brian’s Maturin/Aubrey saga is set in Malta following the events in The Ionian Mission. Captain Aubrey’s favorite ship, HMS Surprise, is undergoing repairs. However, Malta is swarming with Napoleonic agents, so that Stephen Maturin is kept very busy. And to a large extent, Treason’s Harbour is a spy novel, even though there are lots of other activities as well.
French agents have identified Stephen Maturin as a British intelligence agent, and try to use the wife of a captured officer in the Royal Navy, Laura Fielding, to set a trap for Maturin. Laura Fielding is an Italian beauty, and Stephen Maturin is very attracted to her, but he senses that something is not right and is able to befriend her. From this position, he is able to play the French agents instead of being subjected to their game. Now he is the one setting the traps!
However, there is more to the novel than the intricate maneuverings of spies. In the midst of it all, Jack Aubrey, assisted by Stephen, carries out missions in Egypt and Algeria. The mission in Egypt involves a hunt for a French ship laden with silver. As well, in their usual fashion Jack Aubrey and his crew capture several French prizes.
Treason’s Harbour, in my opinion, is not among the very best books in the series, but even so, it plays an important role in it. There is somewhat less classic naval action in the book than is normal, and even though there is some adventuring, less of that too. However, like the other books in the series, Treason’s Harbour is very enjoyable, well written, and full of irony and humor. Great nautical fiction!