The uninviting appearance of this book belies the excitement and excellence of the historical fiction it presents. Southern England in 1803 trembled with Napoleon's impending invasion, and the fear of French spies was rampant. Orphaned Charles Freeman, sent to the pauper's Workhouse in Upminster, meets a mysterious vagabond named John Stranger and becomes involved in the episodes of spy fever. As the story unfolds, the question--who are England's friends and who her enemies?-- is answered for him only through youthful errors and adult adventure. Stranger turns out to be an English counterspy who becomes the boy's guide and mentor. Well-written, with careful British attention to dialect and background, it is provocative fiction for girls and boys alike.