Soldier of Fortune


Edward Marston is famous as a writer of whodunits, which are published under at least three names. For the first time he has departed from familiar waters and struck out for the unknown territory – to him – of military adventure. In the tradition of Sharpe, meet Captain Daniel Rawson who is in turns soldier, lover, spy, and confidant of the Duke of Marlborough, leader of forlorn hopes and cuckolder of husbands. This has made him a bitter enemy of General Salignac, who has sent two assassins to bring back Daniel’s head so he can show it to his wife. But they will have to catch him first, and when better than at a time when Daniel’s guard is down due to the arrival in camp of an unusual visitor. Meanwhile, Marlborough’s army marches towards Blenheim…

I would award Mr Marston some marks for writing about an unfamiliar time and place instead of the Napoleonic Wars. As usual, this author is at his best writing about amiable heroes and hissable villains having some good-humoured adventures in an entertaining plot. It is not a boring story for these reasons, but what it does lack – and this is rather serious – is any military feeling whatsoever. The battle is more akin to a damp squib than a soaring rocket, and despite being set in an army camp on the move the atmosphere is absent. If you are reading the book because you enjoy military history (rather than because you are a fan of this writer’s other work) you will be disappointed in this, particularly as there is no crime for Daniel and his sidekick to solve. In common with all his books are those interminable conversations, where the participants bat flat sentences to each other like balls in a tennis match. Yet it still manages to be entertaining enough, and with more than a hint of the sort of swashbuckling classic-era historicals that got me into the genre in the first place. He will need to brush up on his military history, though, if I am going to read another one.

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(UK) 9780749080525




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