Sunday, August 13, 2006

Sharpe's Gold

by Bernard Cornwell

Sharpe, immediately after winning accolades for capturing a French Eagle, is ordered by Wellington to steal a fortune in Spanish gold.  This is in the care of El Catolico, a devious and selfish Spanish partisan, who wants it for himself.  Naturally, Sharpe means to take it – and El Catolico’s fierce, beautiful lover, of course.

Cornwell surprised me in this book: Major Kearsey, the strict, rather uptight official whom Sharpe has difficulties with, did not, to my great amazement, turn out to be traitor, merely somewhat of a boob.  I got the sense that Cornwell did intend Kearsey to be a traitor, but a shrewd editor told him that Sharpe had faced a few too many traitors in a row, so he rewrote the character a bit – though El Catolico is, in some ways, a traitor, since he’s nominally a British ally – so Cornwell got a turncoat in after all.  Whew!  In any case, whether it’s the less formulaic characters, the rather questionable morality of Sharpe’s mission, or just the exciting climax during the siege of Almeida, this is the first Sharpe book in a while to hold my interest from beginning to end.

four stars