In Stopa’s novel of historical fiction, the Continental Army regroups during its hard winter at Valley Forge and Gen. Washington’s intelligence network works to foil an assassination attempt.
In the winter of 1777, the Continental Army was on the ropes. After spending much of the war outmanned and outmaneuvered by the British, when the rebels set up their winter camp in Valley Forge, Penn., they’re in desperate need of a change in fortune. Henry Nichols, a brigadier in the British Army, senses an opportunity in the rebellion’s troubles. If he can exploit this time of weakness and assassinate George Washington, the rebel army’s charismatic leader, the rebellion might just fall apart. He travels to the colonies with orders from the King himself to carry out the assassination while operating outside the usual chain of command, much to the annoyance of British commander-in-chief Gen. Sir William Howe, who feels the plan is ungentlemanly. Caring little for Howe’s opinion, Nichols coerces John Waterman, a businessman and smuggler recently captured by the English, into taking part. But the strong-willed and resourceful Waterman doesn’t appreciate being forced into Nichols’ plot and works to extricate himself, while hopefully turning a tidy profit in the process. Meanwhile, Lt. Frederick Graham, stationed within British headquarters as Howe’s aide-de-camp, is working as a spy for Washington and must expose Nichols’ machinations before they come to fruition. Stopa clearly knows this period well, as he’s filled his novel with a great deal of compelling historical detail. However, some of the dialogue reads woodenly, and Stopa too often breaks the vaunted “show don’t tell” rule of writing, explicitly stating what’s going on in a character’s mind rather than letting his actions speak for him. Still, the plot moves at a nice clip, and the characters largely ring true.
Well executed and full of immersive period detail, but the author would do well to put a little more trust in his readers.