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'The Emperor's Gold' by Robert Wilton

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Manda Scott
Posts: 81
Joined: July 2010
Location: Shropshire, UK

'The Emperor's Gold' by Robert Wilton

Post by Manda Scott » Thu July 14th, 2011, 12:24 pm

I can't remember if I've reviewed this here - with apologies if I have (I can't find it, but I'm perhaps not searching very well)

This is one of my 'must read' books of the year - the other being Rob Low's 'The Lion Wakes'.

This is the publisher blurb:
July 1805: Napoleon's army masses across the Channel - Britain is within hours of invasion and defeat. Only one thing stands in the way - an obscure govenement bureau of murky origins and shadowy purpose: The Comptrollerate General for Scrutiny and Survey. Behind the clash of fleets and armies, there lies a secret world of intrigue, deception, treachery and violence. Which is precisely why the Comptrollerate exists...Into this feverish environment comes a dead man. Pulled half-drowned from a shipwreck, his past erased, Tom Roscarrock is put to work for the Comptrollerate and thrown headfirst into a bewildering world of political intrigue and violence. In France, a plan is underway to shatter the last of England's stability. In England, the man who recruited Roscarrock has disappeared, his agents keep turning up dead, and reports of a secret French fleet are panicking the authorities. His life in danger and his motives increasingly suspect, Roscarrock must pursue the complex conspiracy across England and then into the heart of Napoleon's France, there to confront the greatest mystery of all...


To which I would add: This is one of the best-written, most engaging books I've read since Hilary Mantel's 'Wolf Hall' (which imo, is one of the best works of fiction to hit the shelves in the past decade). The trouble with WH, was that Mantel can't do plot -she's brilliant at character and place, but all the tension in WH came from the fact that we all know exactly what's going to happen - it's like watching a very, very slow long-distance car crash.

The Emperor's Gold, by comparison, is every bit as well written (some of the paragraphs are quite literally breath taking - this is the only book *ever* where I've read aloud an entire chapter to my OH in an evening), but the plot, the spy-thriller at the centre, is so outstandingly good, with so many twists, that I truly had no idea what was going to happen - or even exactly what had happened - until the last pages. This, too, is unique.

The characters are engaging: Tom Roscarrock is entirely plausible and detailed, with a depth of characterisation that many seasoned authors strive for and fail to find, while the various sub characters are sufficiently shady to be fascinating, and grow in unexpected ways.
The sense of place is outstanding and the sense of time impeccable. This is one of those periods of history I know very little about, but it felt gritty, real and ghastly, which is probably accurate.

So I give this 5/5 and am heartily looking forward to the next volume of the exploits of the Comptrollerate of Scrutiny and Survey.

Last edited by Manda Scott on Thu July 14th, 2011, 12:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Boudica: Dreaming. INTO THE FIRE out in June 2015: Forget what you thought you knew, this changes everything.


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