As William of Orange’s army battles the rebel Jacobite forces of deposed Catholic monarch James II in Ireland, one seasoned English soldier has more than war on his mind.
Welcome back to the third book of Angus Donald’s exhilarating adventure series set in the tumultuous years of the 17th century when change, treachery, revolution and famous battles were fought, lost and won.
These thrilling, all-action historical romps focus on an intriguing real-life character called Holcroft Blood who may well have been a distant cousin of the author, and whose father, Colonel Thomas Blood, gained notoriety as the man who tried to steal the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London.
Holcroft became a distinguished military engineer rising to the rank of Brigadier-General and commanding the Duke of Marlborough’s artillery at the Battle of Blenheim. But he was also known to have been shy and mathematically brilliant and, in a stroke of literary genius, Donald portrays him as a man with mild Asperger’s syndrome, allowing his lack of social awareness and tendency to take everything literally to add an edge of dark humour and entertaining unpredictability.
And now Holcroft is back in action… this time as an engineer officer with his beloved Royal Train of Artillery regiment in 1689 as the English Army is besieging Carrickfergus. Ranged against them are French troops, sent by the French King Louis XIV to boost the Jacobite forces.
A brilliant but unusually pedantic gunner, Holcroft is ready to unleash his cannons on the enemy but this is more than war for Captain Blood… a lust for personal vengeance burns brightly inside him. He plans to track down a French spy, whose codename is Narrey, and either bring him to justice, or ‘dispatch him speedily to Hell.’
That man is French intelligence agent Henri d’Erloncourt who has come across the seas to foment rebellion against William of Orange but whose true mission is not to ease the suffering of the Irish but to serve the interests of his master, King Louis.
Meanwhile, Michael ‘Galloping’ Hogan, a brigand, boozer and despoiler of Protestant farms, strives to defend his native land, and make a little profit on the side. But when he takes the French spy’s gold, he suspects deep in his freedom-loving heart that he has merely swapped one foreign overlord for another…
One year later, on the banks of the River Boyne, on a fateful, scorching hot day, two armies clash in bloody battle – Protestant against Catholic – in an epic struggle for mastery of Ireland. And, when the slaughter is over and the smoke finally clears, for these three men, nothing will ever be the same again.
Donald, author of the much-loved Outlaw Chronicles starring a gangster-style Robin Hood, is a master at weaving fact and fiction… his heart-thumping tales of derring-do are also evocations of fascinating real events with some of history’s most compelling characters mingling with colourful fictional figures.
Here we once again revisit the days of the Glorious Revolution as Holcroft is called into action in support of his new and victorious king, William of Orange. All the thrills, spills, dramas and deadly warfare are viewed through the prism of the remarkably perceptive and straightforward Holroyd who must stay alive on the battlefield and fight against a venomous hidden enemy.
There is gripping adventure and dark comedy here aplenty, but Donald also delights his readers with captivating history lessons and intriguing insights into both the giants of the time and the smaller men and women who played their parts in the tumultuous events of the 17th century.
Another rip-roaring adventure from a master of his craft…
(Zaffre, paperback, £8.99)