A Union Not Blessed

Written by James Green
Review by Tom Williams

In 1805, ex-Vice President Aaron Burr plots treason against the United States. The American Secret Service blackmails South American revolutionary, Sebastian Francisco de Miranda Rodriguez, to help expose him. But Burr is backed by the British, who are also anxious to remain friendly with Miranda. So while some British agents are trying to kill Miranda, others are trying to save him. Throw in a part-time whore who spies for England, a lady’s maid who is a cutthroat on the side, a General of dubious loyalty and a man married to his niece and living on an island in the Ohio River, and you have a busy plot. Wandering through the whole thing is a Boston lawyer, Macleod, whose innocence is his best protection as all the players in this murderous game use him to forward their own interests.

With so many characters, it is to James Green’s credit that one seldom loses track of them. Despite this, the double crosses and multiple betrayals get increasingly difficult to follow. So complicated does it become that every so often characters have to explain what they are doing. This is well-managed, with the dialogue always credible, but that it is necessary at all is an indication that things have got out of hand. Losing a couple of sub-plots might make life easier for the reader.

The story whisks you along, and the historical background is credible. Miranda is particularly interesting. He was an important figure in the South American revolutionary movement, but not much known to the wider world nowadays. Unfortunately, a passing reference to the slave trade includes a basic error on the routes. This creates some doubt about Green’s care with historical accuracy.