This is book 4 in the ongoing Lieutenant Leary series. The characters probably make more sense if you start from the beginning, but there's not very much reference to earlier events in the series.
This book, like the rest of the series, is pure space opera, mere fluffy entertainment. There are some scientific howlers, but in a universe where sailors climb in the rigging of the starship's sails, who's going to worry about velocity changes that would take days at the described acceleration happening in minutes? There's a time for silly space opera. The writing engages me. The characters seem to be self-consistent. Some of them have very odd personalities but they do have personalities, and they are consistent in them -- there is some slow evolution in the characters but no unexpected sudden changes. The plot has some minor surprises but no big tangles. Nothing profound or deep here, just fun.
8 out of 10.
Leary's just returned from the wildly successful exploits in the previous book and should be up for a promotion. But in a high profile case, the paranoid Captain Slidell has just returned to Cinnabar having summarily executed some of his crew on charges of mutiny. Navy discipline requires the court martial to acquit, but it ends up causing riots because of the popular non-com who was spaced and political repercussions because of the noble midshipman who was spaced. Slidell has to be shipped out NOW. But they have to put somebody with him who can hold his crew together, and Leary gets tapped. Leary treats this as an unpleasant duty, but duty nonetheless, and does not complain. Slidell hates Leary and expects him and the loyal Sissies who come with him to mutiny again. Not being in enough political hot water, once they get out to Nikitin in the boonies, they uncover an Alliance spy who's seducing Admiral Milne who's in charge of the sector. Milne sends Leary to Yang, a hopelessly ungovernable mess of a planet kind of like Somalia, in a cutter on a mission to rescue some captured mercs who are Cinnabar citizens. He's supposed to fail, but being Leary, of course succeeds, and also discovers a secret Alliance base a-building and destroys an Alliance courier. The log from the courier clearly shows that a major convoy is already on its way to Yang, and if it arrives, Alliance will be able to put in place planetary defenses that will make it very hard to boot them off of Yang. And of course it's a strategic location because of trade that goes through the area. Leary rushes back to Slidell, meaning to sell Slidell on his near-suicidal plan to hide a cutter in the next system on the convoy's route, figuring to disable one of the transports and delay the convoy. It's only near-suicidal if Leary himself is doing it, and he fails to consider that Slidell will want to do it himself. Once Slidell leaves, Leary is in command, and he puts together a plan to attack with the tender and the remaining cutters at the next waypoint. The attack is very successful, crippling several of the convoy ships, at a cost of deliberately abandoning the tender Hermes, and of Dorst's cutter being obliterated. Leary returns to report to Milne on the situation, knowing that she will have to send out the whole squadron to finish mopping up the convoy. Mundy comes up with a plan to make Leary's cutter look like the battle cruiser that's in the middle of major repairs, thus getting the cutter to be part of the fight. Then we actually skip this final battle and return to Nikitin, where Leary's sister and Admiral Jeffords (who is like second in command to Admiral Anston, the top military officer in the whole Navy) feature in a hero's welcome. Leary gets a two-step promotion to full Commander.
As the novel evolves, Mundy is showing definite signs of thawing out into a real human being. She doesn't go so far as even a kiss with Leary, but they're true, if Platonic, friends by the end of the book.