Matthew Hawkwood series, No 4
2011/ ISBN 9780007320240
Historical Suspense / France-1812
by L J Roberts
First Sentence: He heard the rattle of musket fire and ducked
Matthew Hawkwood, former military officer now a Bow Street Runner,
as been sent to France by the Home Office. Neapolitan and his Grand
Army are in Moscow, and the country nearly bankrupt. He has been
given no information as to his assignment but knows, if he fails,
all help for, and knowledge of him will be withheld. When he learns
of his assignment it is audacious, dangerous and may result either
in Hawkwood helping change the course of history or, quite possibly,
in his death.
Although not really a mystery, this was one incredible book. Strongly
rooted in historical facts, it is fascinating to see the events
of history at the personal level and how the events rival anything
pure fiction could ever invent. One learns so much from this story,
including about the beginnings of the Brigade de la Sûreté,
organized by a man, Eugène François Vidocq, who had
been a criminal. In fact, most of the characters here were real.
Hawkwood is a dynamic character. He is smart, clever, brave and
skilled yet also described as neither being a rake nor a celibate.
He is a trained soldier. We actually know little of his background
yet he’s as far from being a one-dimensional protagonist as
one can imagine.
While sense of place, in terms of descriptions of locales, may
be lacking, there is more a sense of atmosphere and tension created
by weather, time of day, conditions and the tension of the story.
This is not Paris at its most lovely, but Paris and other locations,
as a surrounding in which the characters are trying to fight and
survive. It absolutely worked.
There is absolutely nothing dry or boring about this book. Any
brief disappointment that Hawkwood was not operating in England
as a Bow Street Runner is quickly overcome. The one small criticism
is that it did, at times, become difficult to keep track of who
was whom and on which side they were so a character list would have
been very helpful. Even so, even for one who is not particularly
a soldiers and war fan, the 516 pages flew by in two days with nary
a pause and only a bit of sleep. However, if you are a Patrick O’Brian
and/or Bernard Cornwell fan, here’s another author to add
to your list.
“Rebellion” is exciting, tense, suspenseful, at times
a bit brutal, dramatic, and