Joyce Lagow's Reviews > Sharpe's Prey

Sharpe's Prey by Bernard Cornwell
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's review
Apr 20, 2010

really liked it

#5 in the Richard Sharpe series.[return][return]It's 1807, and Sharpe is broke and bitter. After returning to England after the Batle of Trafalgar, he and Lady Grace Hale began living together. But the class difference between them led to social disapproval and shunning. When Lady Grace died in childbirth, leaving Sharpe stricken with grief, the family's lawyers descended like a pack of vultures and stripped Sharpe of all his property, leaving him destitute into the bargain. In addition, he still has not integrated well into the Rifles; the company captain relegates Sharpe to the menial and boring task of quartermaster.[return][return]Desperate, feeling that his fortunes can go no lower, Sharpe plans and carries out a daring robbery of a man he hates more than anyone else in the world--the head of the orphanage in which Sharpe grew up. Sharpe intends to take the money and desert from the army.[return][return] Hiding in a tavern to escape pursuit, Sharpe suddenly is accosted by Major General Sir David Baird, a Scotsman whose life he saved during the storming of the fortress of Seringapatam in India. Baird has been searching for Sharpe, since Sharpe is exactly the person that Baird thinks can handle an unusual and dangerous assignment: escorting Foot Gruads' Captain Lavisser to Copenhagen, Denmark on a mission to prevent the French from capturing Denmark's navy--by means of a bribe.[return][return]The errand seems simple, but Sharpe does not reckon on treachery. Trapped in Copenhagen and a hunted man, he enters a series of adventures that ends with the brutal bombardment of Copenhagen's civilian population by the British, possibly the first instance of deliberate warfare on a civilian population to achieve military ends. [return][return]In this installment is the first appearance of Lord Pumphrey, and effeminate-seeming but subtle and powerful member of the Foreign Office. Those who have read the Aubrey-Maturin series will remember Sir Joseph Blaine, Stephen Maturin's contact and a decent person. However, Blaine refers to other types in the Foreign Office, and Pumphreys is definitely one of the "others"--ruthless and remorseless behind a smiling and foppish exterior.[return][return]The bombardment of Copenhagen is described in detail and leaves nothing to the imagination in terms of the suffering of the civilian population.[return][return]As usual, Cornwell has done his research and history comes alive in another very well-written book in this excellent series. Highly recommended.

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