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Sharpe's Havoc


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About the Author

Bernard Cornwell was born in London, raised in Essex and worked for the BBC for eleven years before meeting Judy, his American wife. Denied an American work permit he wrote a novel instead and has been writing ever since. He and Judy divide their time between Cape Cod and Charleston, South Carolina.


This 19th book in the Richard Sharpe series fills a gap in the early stories set in the Peninsular War. This time, Richard's company is cut off from the main British force in French-occupied northern Portugal, and he finds himself under the command of a brevet colonel from the British Foreign Office whose behavior and orders are strange. It's a novel situation for Richard, but the overall formula is a familiar one: confounded by perfidy and determined to protect a beautiful woman, he uses cunning and fighting skill to extricate himself and his men from a seemingly impossible situation with the usual gratifying conclusion. With many excellent Sharpe novels already available, do libraries need this one? Probably not. Its chief attraction is Patrick Tull's powerful narration, but the effect is blunted by the cassettes' weak signal strength, which makes Tull difficult to understand.-Kent Rasmussen, Thousand Oaks, CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Sharpe fans who may have worried that Cornwell's popular series was drawing to a close can heave a sigh of relief-the 19th entry (after 2002's Sharpe's Prey) brings the up-from-the-ranks rifleman back to the Peninsular War where the series began, among such familiar comrades-in-arms as Sergeant Harper and the "old poacher" Dan Hagman. In the treacherous villain role without which no Sharpe adventure would be complete, the Shakespeare-quoting Colonel Christopher plays both sides of the fence in an effort to contrive a peace between the warring parties that will leave him a rich man. But Christopher hasn't reckoned with the new British commander, Sir Arthur Wellesley, the future Duke of Wellington, who arrives in time to catch Marshal Soult's invading army by surprise. Meanwhile, Sharpe and his men, cut off in a Portuguese village, hold off superior French forces with the aid of Lieutenant Vicente, a Portuguese lawyer, poet and philosopher turned soldier. Sharpe's antilawyer barbs, as well as some later banter about the troubled relations between the English and Irish and between the Spanish and Portuguese, provide comic relief, while Kate Savage, a naive 19-year-old Englishwoman seduced by Christopher, lends relatively minor romantic interest. A delicious scene at Wellesley's headquarters, in which Sharpe has to account for his seemingly inactive role, will please aficionados, as will the ringing words with which Cornwell closes his customary afterword on the historical background: "So Sharpe and Harper will march again." (Apr. 1) Forecast: An eight-city author tour, his first in the U.S., plus the human interest story of the author's recent discovery of his biological parents after being give up for adoption at birth, should ensure that Cornwell builds on his ever-increasing U.S. sales. Whether Cornwell will clamber up national bestseller lists, though, as he routinely does in the U.K., remains to be seen. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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