Bob’s Pick: Sharpe’s Assassin by Bernard Cornwall
It’s been a number of years since the last book was written about Richard Sharpe. With over twenty books dedicated to his exploits with the British army during primarily the Napoleonic Wars, he is undoubtedly one of the most documented people in fictional history and if anything else, he truly epitomizes the ideal British “warrior” of his time period!
Sharpe has always been a favorite character of mine. Having grown up in the poor and shady side of London, he enlisted in the British Army and endured not only having to fight tough enemy forces on foreign soil but also the hardships and class prejudices inherent in his military system. Many of the officer positions fell to individuals from affluent or noble families and their attitude towards poor, working class enlisted personnel was often strictly disciplinarian and harsh. In his career, Sharpe overcame these obstacles and through exhibition of his military skills and prowess both on and off the battlefield, Sharpe was able to impress his superiors and advance rapidly. In fact, one of his biggest supporters throughout his career became his commander in chief, also known as the Duke of Wellington!
Having started his career as a private, Sharpe is now a more senior officer. In this book, Sharpe’s Assassin, it is the Duke of Wellington, after the famous battle of Waterloo, who calls upon Lieutenant Colonel Sharpe once again. He will need Sharpe and his men to advance deeply into territory in and around Paris that is still under the control and support of French Napoleonic forces. Sharpe has the Duke’s blessing to use whatever means or available resources he deems necessary to achieve the Duke’s objectives. Because Sharpe usually thinks outside the box, Sharpe rarely disappoints and secures his first goal involving hostages quite readily.
Sharpe’s second goal is a little more multi-faceted. He and his men will be involved with recovering and restoring stolen artworks in Napoleon’s museum, now known as the Louvre. I found this part of the book quite interesting as I previously only knew of the Nazis stealing art works worldwide. Apparently, Napoleon was an avid art collector and secured for himself and the people of France many items from museums, homes and facilities across Italy, the Netherlands and Eastern Europe.
Besides being involved with the Louvre, Sharpe has been given duties usually assigned to an intelligence agency. He must determine and locate the members of a French underground movement known as the Fraternity. Since Napoleon lost at Waterloo, the Fraternity is looking to assassinate important European leaders who will determine France’s future such as the Duke of Wellington! In turn, Sharpe has been ordered to assassinate the assassins!
Even though he was in Paris, Sharpe didn’t seem to much enjoy his visit. He successfully fought his opponents in a French vineyard instead of sitting in the adjoining chateau and imbibing their delicious offering of vintage wines. His opponents wish he had. Still, Sharpe once again proved his acumen in military affairs and maybe started a new career either undercover or with his beautiful wife, a French noble woman in comfortable retirement. After already written so many books about this hero, I doubt whether the author will let him retire for long!