Whose Business Is to Die

Written by Adrian Goldsworthy
Review by Ann Northfield

If you want to know what a battle in the Napoleonic Wars was like from the inside, then you should look no further than this novel. Goldsworthy is renowned as a military historian, and this is the sixth book in this series set in this particular era. There is plenty of slice and dice, enough for any bloodthirsty reader and myriad ways to end life on a battlefield; none of them are pleasant, naturally enough. The roundshot ‘cut the soldier behind him in half, flinging his torso so that it knocked down two men in the next rank and drenched them in blood and entrails.’ (p257). If this is your thing, there is plenty more.

There was a lot of back-story, however, and it sometimes seemed as if every time a character appeared, there was a lot of catch-up for the reader. Perhaps a series to read from the beginning, then, as I struggled to engage with the characters when all I knew about them was a short summary. For me, there could have been more human interest. There is a love interest, but it is not really that prominent, perhaps unsurprisingly as, by and large, the setting is the battlefields. Those more militarily minded may find manoeuvres, digging ramparts and picket duty more interesting than I did. The historical research and army knowledge seem impeccable, details such as uniform and weapons ring very true, and the reader will certainly learn about how wars such as these were fought and how they felt.