Sunday, April 12, 2015

Rebellion by James McGee

Rebellion: A Thriller in Napoleon's Paris by James McGee --- 522 pages

A masterly historical thriller, fourth in McGee's series featuring former British Army officer now Bow Street Runner Matthew Hawkwood.  This is McGee's most ambitious attempt to insert his dark and sardonic hero into the midst of tumultuous historical events.

In October of 1812 the British and their allies have been fighting Napoleon a long time and everyone --- except the Emperor --- is tired of war and desperate for peace. Hoping to use this disenchantment to persuade the various factions among the French to unite against their common enemy, the British government quietly offers to finance a coup against Napoleon while he is two thousand miles away on the Russian Front with all his best troops and winter rapidly approaching.  Matthew Hawkwood is seconded to the Alien Office (a secretive government department responsible for undercover intelligence work) to become the agent provocateur on the ground in Paris responsible for advancing this plot. 

It's a challenge to plausibly insert a fictitious character playing a leading role into the very heart of a well-documented, complex historical event, but McGee is so convincing that at the penultimate moment you really do wonder if Hawkwood & Co. are going to pull off their coup --- even when you know what ultimately occurred.  Many of the characters and events in this novel are real; McGee brings them vividly and convincingly to life on the page and manages to maintain historical veracity at the same time.  It's a virtuoso performance, and it has whetted my appetite for the fifth Hawkwood novel, The Blooding, published in Great Britain at the beginning of this year, in which British agent Hawkwood is on the run in the United States in the middle of the War of 1812.  

Click HERE to read a review of Rebellion from Publisher's Weekly.

Click HERE to read a review from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Click HERE to read a review from the blog Reading the Past.


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