McGee (Rapscallion, 2013, etc.) continues the Regency-era adventures of Matthew Hawkwood of the Bow Street Runners, the crown’s special police unit.
Wellington’s Peninsula Campaign continues, and there, McGee rips the tale open with a nail-biting chase and narrow escape. Who-why-wherefore is a surprise to be unwrapped later. It’s London next. There are characters familiar—Jago, Hawkwood’s former sergeant, now profiting in the shadows at the edge of the law; phlegmatic James Read, Bow Street chief; and Twigg, Read’s Dickensian clerk. And characters new—like Chen, exiled Chinese monk tutoring Hawkwood in martial arts. At Bow Street, Read tells Hawkwood he's temporarily assigned to the Home Office, and there, he'll receive orders to spy in France. Hawkwood endures a colossal Channel storm before being tossed up on a beach and greeted by a French patrol. Another escape. In Paris, he meets Capt. Colquhoun Grant, thought dead after French imprisonment. With Napoleon 2,000 miles away in Russia, Hawkwood’s astonished to learn he’s key in a conspiracy to overthrow the Little Corporal. After all, the empire is merely "one man’s delusion of grandeur...no more solid than a grass house built on sand." With drunken generals, betrayals and revenge to be sought, McGee drops French eminences into the plot, with a sufficient number of generals, colonels and bureaucrats peopling the narrative’s second half to require a score card. Villains abound—including Vidocq, former convict and first chief of the dreaded Brigade de Sûreté. Most entertainingly, the talented McGee scatters literary nuggets and factoids about places and people—for example, Vidocq, Grant and other characters are drawn from history. McGee is also a knowledgeable tour guide of 1812 Paris. With a supporting cast from Jacobite émigré Jamie McPherson to general's wife Denise Malet to Lt. Stuart, captaining the cutter Griffin across the stormy Channel only to be captured and tortured, Hawkwood proves a worthy hero for this epic tale.
Hawkwood fans will delight. New readers should seek out the full series.