The time is 1813. Wellington with the help of the Spanish and Portuguese are hard at work attempting to dislodge Napoleon’s troops from Spain. The French, their Emperor having been bested by Colonel Winter in Russia, know they will have to give up Spain in order to reinforce their position in northern Europe. And although withdrawal from Spain is inevitable, the French hope to do so in an organized, measured way that will allow them to send their plunder ahead of them back to France. This is the background against which Richard Sharpe, officially executed by his own troops for engaging in a duel and trying to save his honour. Except that Sharpe isn’t really the one executed: a petty thief is substituted for him and no one’s the wiser. And what of Sharpe? Well, he’s sent behind enemy lines to find what sort of secret deals the French and the Spanish Inquisition are cooking up. You will enjoy the usual inhabitants of the Sharpe novels. There’s Richard Sharpe, of course. The man continues to lead a charmed life. Then there’s Major Hogan, sometimes Sharpe’s guardian angel. We are introduced to a particularly unsavory character, el Matarife, the Slaughter man, whose name says it all. A man of immense strength, he kills his victims bit by bit, hand by hand, eye by eye. Pierre Ducos, French diplomat bent on negotiating a secret treaty with the Spanish Partisanas. And then we have the Marquesa. A woman of great beauty who can hold any man in thrall. She has amassed a great fortune in Spain and now seeks its safe delivery to France. She will do anything and play anyone to ensure that end. The story, as you might imagine, has twists and turns as well as many surprises. Like all the other Sharpe novels, this one is satisfying to read.
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