An immensely effective and affecting first novel from a retired US Army officer detailing how George Armstrong Custer and his soldiers came to glorious grief at the hands of hostile Indians in the valley of southern Montana's Little Bighorn River. The episodic narrative brings the events of Sunday, June 25, 1876, to vivid life by providing a minute-by-minute account (as accurate as research can make it) of the movements made by the 600- odd soldiers under Custer's command and by principal members of the alliance of Sioux, Cheyenne, and lesser tribes assembled by Chief Sitting Bull. Part of a three-pronged military campaign mounted against Plains tribes, the 7th Cavalry had been warned by Indian scouts that a huge encampment lay in its path. Apprehensive that his quarry might have spotted smoke from the regiment's cooking fires, Lieutenant Colonel Custer (a brevet general during the Civil War) decided to attack without delay. Dividing his vastly outnumbered force, he put Major Marcus Reno's troops in motion and sent Captain Frederick Benteen on a reconnaissance mission. Badly mauled in a running battle, Reno's unit withdrew to higher ground, where it was subsequently joined by Benteen's three companies. Meantime, Custer (who feared the Indians might slip away) advanced along a promontory known as Greasy Grass Hill. Here, he and approximately 250 of his men were surrounded and annihilated by an overwhelming band of well-armed braves led by Crazy Horse and Gall. Only Comanche, the faithful-unto-death mount of an Irish soldier of fortune, survived the fearful battle. While Chiaventone's version of an oft-told tale has neither heroes nor villains (only mortal creatures accepting their fates with varying degrees of grace), it does not lack for dramatic conflict. And it offers a powerful, unsparing portrait of close combat on the frontier. In all: historical fiction of a very high and consequential order.