About the Book
September 1810. Raids across the Straits of Messina to disrupt preparations for the French invasion of the island have been repulsed with heavy casualties.
George Warne, a bright young British officer, suspects treachery back in Messina, and is ordered to investigate. Warne uncovers a shadowy underworld of spies, traitors and informers where nothing is quite as it seems and where danger lurks around every corner.
If the long-threatened French invasion erupts will Sicily’s defenders be prepared?
Format: ebook (352 pages) Publisher: Allison & Busby
Publication date: 23rd April 2020 Genre: Historical Fiction, Military
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The events in the book unfold over the course of September 1810 with each chapter representing a day and moving frequently between various characters, but principally focussing on Captain George Warne. The setting is Sicily with the British forces facing the French under the command of Joachim Murat, brother-in-law of Napoleon, across the Straits of Messina. Such is the proximity of the opposing forces that each side can observe the other. It’s a waiting game for the British with a French invasion expected at any time.
Ordered to investigate when it becomes apparent there is the possibility of a spy within the British command giving vital information to the enemy, George enlists the help of his mistress, Carlotta. She is a very merry widow who, it has to be said chiefly provides him with assistance of a more intimate nature. There are no shortage of suspects including a local lawyer with high-placed friends and fingers in many pies and a suspiciously helpful member of the nobility.
The book has a generous number of secondary characters and subsidiary storylines. For example, the rivalry between two officers for the affections of a young lady arrived from England to visit her soldier brother which has dramatic consequences.
The author’s background as a historian is evident in the meticulous descriptions of weaponry, uniforms, and military and naval assets. The action scenes, both at sea and on land, are vividly depicted. I also liked the way the author conjured up the bustling piazzas and thoroughfares of Messina.
“The street itself was a seething flood of city life: pedestrians, men on horseback, carts, mules and donkeys uncomplaining under spreading loads, the occasional carriage, its whip-flicking driver impatiently clearing a passage through the crowd, a sedan chair making its stately way among the throng, the odd mangey dog, an aged priest bent over his walking stick, a couple of chickens pecking sneakily in the gutter, men labouring under weighty parcels, a peasant pushing a small handcart laden with lemons, a prim posse of nuns, a pair of young boys rolling a barrel.”
I enjoyed the setting of the book, the period detail and the exciting action scenes, however I’ll confess to being a little disappointed by how the book ended. It seemed to fizzle out with the results of Warne’s investigation wrapped up rather rapidly and some storylines left unresolved. However, perhaps the author is saving those for the planned sequel. But I did like the clever touch of having the ending of the book mirror the opening with George gazing out across the Straits of Messina towards Calabria and the French forces gathered there.
The Straits of Treachery will definitely appeal to fans of historical fiction with a strong naval or military element. If my review has piqued your interest you can view the book trailer here.
My thanks to Allison & Busby for my digital review copy via NetGalley.
In three words: Detailed, action-packed, authentic
Try something similar: The Traitor of Treasure Island by John Drake
About the Author
Richard Hopton is an author, historian and journalist. He has published three works of non-fiction, and The Straits of Treachery will be his first historical novel. Richard graduated from the University of Oxford with an M.A. in Modern History. His interests include architecture, the British countryside, art, politics, cricket, racing and springer spaniels. He lives in Dorset with his wife and two children. (Photo/bio credit: Publisher author page)