This novel about the American Revolution imagines—well, the spoiler might be in the title.
Of course, the British have to get Washington first—to capture or kidnap him, depending on one’s viewpoint. In 1780, the First Minister of Great Britain, Lord North, orders Jeremiah Black to grab the “supreme traitor,” Gen. George Washington, and deliver him to justice. So Black sails to New Jersey, where the general and his staff are headquartered, to take him “back to England to stand trial for high treason.” One Loyalist thinks killing Washington would be simpler, but a trial in London might force the rebels to a settlement. Lord North wants a “thorough…and slow” investigation prior to the trial, to allow time to negotiate the war’s end. Meanwhile, King George III wants a trial and an execution of the rebel leader. Being more than 6 feet tall and disinclined to be cowed, Gen. Washington exudes an “aura of command” even when a group led by Black arrests him in the name of the king. “Sir, if I must die in defense of my country,” Washington says, “my life will be forfeit in a noble cause.” That’s a gutsy statement indeed, given that the likely conviction means mandatory hanging, disembowelment while still alive, then being quartered and beheaded. (Yikes!) North later marvels that Washington “sits even taller in the saddle than I expected,” feeding nicely into the narrative of the larger-than-life hero Americans learn about as children. Although Washington had become ill on the ocean crossing aboard the HMS Peregrine, the British largely treat him respectfully according to his rank, and he never, ever complains or shows fear right up to his trip to the gallows. Ethan Abbott of the Continental Congress arrives in London to negotiate Washington’s release, but without success, as the title foretells.
A well-told if rather straightforward tale that’s sure to please lovers of American history.