This is the most recently published of the more than two dozen novels in the Richard Bolitho naval series, but by the internal chronology, it comes third. It's here that Midshipman Bolitho is examined for promotion to lieutenant, and also here that he loses his best friend, Martyn Dancer, in a very minor action against a smuggler's brig. The problem with this extremely brief "novel" (a mere 113 pages, not counting the glossary and the selection from the next book in the series) is that the narrative and plot line are both as thin as muslin. It's almost a sketch of what ought to have been a full-dress novel three times its length. I found myself stopping to go back and reread a couple pages, thinking I'd missed something. And I kept checking the printed page numbers, in the suspicion that two had been glued together. The lieutenant's exam, for instance, has only just begun, maybe two or three basic questions asked, when suddenly it's over and Bolitho is being congratulated on having passed! When it becomes apparent Richard and his small party are going to have to capture a lugger on the beach in order to interrupt the loading of smuggled cases of muskets -- at least, I think that's what they're attempting to accomplish, it's never really clear -- the narrative jumps from the beach, to a moment in their own boat, to a few minutes after they take the smuggler's boat. If this were a movie, it would be littered with scene cuts and pages ripped from the screenplay. The whole thing seems to be a ploy on the author's part to bring in some extra dough without having done anything to earn it.