Aristocratic sergeant Jack Crossman is in at the end of the siege of Sebastopol as the Crimean War comes to its close, leaving him free to soldier on in India when the series continues.
Kilworth’s brainy aristocratic hero returns in the fifth “Fancy Jack” Crossman adventure (US debut: The Winter Soldiers, 2003), still not getting enough baths, still seriously flirting with slightly damaged heiress Jane Mulinder, still ordering about the gang of toughs assigned to those special bits of subversion beyond the capability of your garden-variety redcoat. The siege seems to be going pretty much nowhere. The Sebastopolitans are starving and miserable, but the Russian occupiers appear to have limitless firepower to back a seemingly impregnable position, and the opposing British, French, Turkish and other allied forces have been losing thousands of troops to a series of suicidal attacks on the Redan, the Russian fortress. On top of the general misery, Jack, the bastard son of a career soldier baronet, has to duck the inevitable confrontation and settling with evil Captain Campbell, the gambler who bankrupted Jack’s beloved half-brother. Campbell is still smarting from a humiliation Jack dealt him, and when he at last recognizes Jack under the scruffy beard he’s sporting, Campbell rats the sergeant out for having impersonated an officer in a card game. Stripped of his stripes, Jack has to take orders like the rest of the troops on their final commando raid, a sortie that nearly wipes the band out when Peterson, their female sharpshooter, opens fire early on the Russians who had recently captured and raped her. A female sharpshooter? Just part of the odd scenery in an old-fashioned war attended by upmarket ladies and a hard-charging embedded reporter from the former American colonies. It all wraps up with one last suicidal assault in which Jack just might win back those stripes and patient Jane.
Lots of mud and lots of blood. Historical fun for the lads.