Nicholas Carey (Carey Novels)

Written by Ronald Welch

1853, Italy. Nicholas Carey, a young army captain, is more interested in wine, good food and landscape painting than his career. So he’s thoroughly annoyed when he’s dragged by his madcap cousin Andrew into helping Italian patriots fighting for freedom.

1854, Paris. Louis Napoleon is on the throne and, once again, Andrew is in cahoots with the same Italian assassins. Nick, who only wants a quiet life, is pulled into danger. Only his quick-wittedness saves both of them – and the emperor – from an ugly death.

1855, Crimea. Here, Nick faces a much greater challenge. The British army is a shambles; there is food, army tents, ammunition – but no way of getting them from the port to the army. Disease if rife and the Russian winter approaches. Nick’s company comprises eighty men and, gradually, as he begins to shoulder his responsibilities, he discovers a pride in his men that he hasn’t known before.

What Welch is particularly good at is depicting the realities of warfare. The sights, sounds and smells of being involved in a battle come across vividly and with all the force of actual experience. The men are filthy, wet, terrified and the wounds aren’t just decorative; they can spill guts and splinter bones. Nick must learn how to work the system in order to get his men cooking stoves, and sheepskins to keep warm, and to push officialdom into doing something about the appalling hospital ships.

Nicholas Carey is admirably served by William Stobbs’ essential map of pre-unification Italy, showing clearly how Italy was divided at the time; and his map of the Crimea illuminates important topographic details. I enjoyed this book. As well as being full of excitement, it is also a coming of age story which gives it added depth. Aimed at readers of ten plus.

Ed. note: To purchase this title, which is not available on Amazon, see the publisher’s site.