The peace of 1814 ends the Peninsular Wars with Napoleon's exile to Elba, but doesn't give a moment's rest to Major Richard Sharpe (Sharpe's Eagle, Sharpe's Regiment, etc.). This latest installment of Sharpe's adventures begins just before the savage and unnecessary battle of Toulouse, where Sharpe's friend Major-General Nairn is killed. But the real threat to Sharpe is elsewhere: his archenemy Major Pierre Ducos, realizing that the Emperor's downfall is imminent, has hijacked his personal baggage, including a fortune in gold, and laid a trail incriminating Sharpe. Together with his right-hand man, Sergeant Patrick Harper. and one-eyed, misogynistic Captain William Frederickson, Sharpe escapes from a British tribunal in Bordeaux and goes after priestly Henri Lassan, who can clear his name. But Ducos' men catch up with Lassan first and, disguised as British soldiers, kill him and his mother, leaving his sister Lucille with a murderous thirst for revenge against Sharpe. In the meantime, Sharpe's beautiful wife Jane, armed with a power of attorney and a new-found faith in her ability to charm would-be protectors, has taken control of Sharpe's fortune and fallen in love with Lord John Rossendale; instead of pleading Sharpe's case with the Prince Regent, she's hoping he'll die in France. But all these threats are only a warm-up for the climactic and satisfying meeting between Sharpe and Ducos. As in his last few outings, Sharpe spends more time laying and recovering from plots than bashing the French; but Cornwell handles the transition to peacetime with ample helpings of bloodletting, rousing intrigue, and period detail. A concluding note broadly implies a sequel at Waterloo.