The outcome of the meeting between Constitution and Java is well known, and there is a danger with any story which has a forgone conclusion that tension or excitement can be either missing, or contrived. This is definitely not the case with A Perfect Wreck; from the start, with Constitution active and potent at sea, and Java working up at Portsmouth after her capture from the French, the story pulls the reader forward with a pace that is quite compelling. Maffeo adds poignance by fleshing out the historical characters, making them real, three dimensional, and totally believable while the wealth of detail that is present throughout the book, gives a fascinating background to the story, without slowing the plot or becoming in any way instructional.
In short we have a well researched and excellently written book; one that reads as easily as any novel, and yet carries the accuracy and credibility of a good reference work. A difficult trick, but one that Maffeo has pulled off perfectly.