Red flags flutter at the mastheads of the Channel Fleet ships gathered at the Spithead anchorage.
It is 1797, and unrest is spreading – to Plymouth, backdrop to Francis Drake’s Armada heroics two centuries earlier, and to the Nore, the great anchorage at the gateway to London. For the downtrodden sailors whose pay has not been increased for a hundred years it is time to strike for better pay and conditions. But, according to the Articles of War, akin to holy writ on board His Majesty’s ships, it is mutiny. And at a time when Britain is at war with Revolutionary France and threatened with invasion, the nation is plunged into grave peril.
Young Lieutenant Oliver Anson is awaiting transfer to duties aboard a frigate in the Mediterranean. Any ideas of idleness while he waits are swept aside when he is ordered to travel to Portsmouth on a mysterious mission. What are the contents of the papers he is to deliver personally to the flag officer there? Who among his fellow travellers on the express Royal Mail coach would try to steal them? How can he survive a more dangerous attack after being despatched to the Nore on a further secret assignment?