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Adventures in Bookland: Treason’s Tide by Robert Wilton

This ought to have been great. The book’s conceit, that the author has discovered the archives of a shadowy British spy organisation and is publishing part of the collected archives, is brilliantly carried off. In particular, the extracts from letters, newspapers, journals and the varied and various epistolary exchanges of the early 19th century are completely convincing – so much so that for much of the book I thought the Comptrollerate General really existed! Now, that really is well done, and my congratulations to Robert Wilton for his ability to write convincingly in so many voices and genres. So all the foundations for a great novel of historical fiction were in place. What stops it achieving greatness is, in the end, the story. A story about the smoke and mirrors, the lies and deceptions of espionage during the Napoleonic Wars in the end dissolves itself, the plot blowing away like a column of smoke when a wind rises. In the end, it’s hard not to think that it was all sutff and nonsense about nothing much in particular – a story of panic and confusion dissipated when, finally, all the plots are revealed as empty and the threat unreal. Still, with the talent Wilton shows in this, his first book, I am sure that he is capable of writing a truly great novel of historical fiction in future.

Treason’s Tide by Robert Wilton.

 

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