Sir Edward Pellew visits Horatio Hornblower who is jail in Jamaica awaiting his trial on a charge of making a mutiny. His problems began six months earlier when he was appointed Third Lieutenant aboard the HMS Renown under the famous Captain James Sawyer. It soon becomes apparent to several of the officers, including Horatio’s friend Archie Kennedy who is aboard ship as Fourth Lieutenant that the Captain is suffering from madness of some sort. He is cruel and sees conspiracies everywhere. Both Horatio and Midshipman Welland prove to be the particular objects of his wrath. The situation is not helped by an inexperience First Lieutenant who does not command the Captain’s respect and a newly arrived Second Lieutenant who doesn’t seem ready to challenge the Captain in any way.