Whose Business is to die
This is the sixth novel in the series and follows straight on from Run them Ashore, with the action moving away from the Mediterranean coast further north to the border between Portugal and Spain. The great fortress town of Badajoz has been captured by the French and the Allies are determined to re-take it before the enemy can repair its fortifications. Hanley is once again acting as an exploring officer under the merchant turned spy-master Baynes. Williams is an ADC to an acting - and very active - brigade commander, Lieutenant Colonel Colborne and discovers that a staff officer's life is a good deal less relaxing than expected. Pringle and the rest of the 106th soon join them in a campaign that will test them all. Lord Wellington is occupied facing the main French army in the north, and so the operations around Badajoz will have to succeed with barely enough resources and under the command of inexperienced and bickering generals.
Old adversaries re-appear as the French plot to undermine the Allies from within. Old friends also re-appear, sparking very different emotions. The cynical Hanley scents an opportunity for mischief, the earnest Williams wonders whether or not he can repair the damage after his latest row with the lovely Jane MacAndrews, and easy-going Billy Pringle begins to think of a future.
There are cavalry charges, raids and ambushes, and the grim work of digging trenches under shell-fire, but even this cannot prepare them for the brutal Battle of Albuera, where the British, Spanish and Portuguese are out-witted by the French and must fight for their very lives before they can think of winning. In the costliest action of the war, no one will come through unscathed.
|© Adrian Goldsworthy 2009|