Reviews: Fiction

A Close Run Thing

By Allan Mallinson

Mallinson, Allan. A Close Run Thing. New York: Bantam, 1999. 306 pages. ISBN# 0-553-11114-0. Hardcover. US$ 23.95.

A Close Run Thing cover

In one the first military novels of the Napoleonic Wars that has been published in several years, Alan Mallinson chronicles the life of Matthew Hervey, a junior officer serving in the fictional British 6th Light Dragoons. The novel opens in the waning days of the Peninsula War, where the British under Wellington are fighting the French before the city of Toulouse. When peace is declared, Hervey and the regiment return to the British Isles to adjust to garrison duty in a peacetime army. Lieutenant Hervey is the son of a country parson and does not have much money. Despite his battlefield achievements, he has the knack for angering senior officers. With no patron and little money, his advancement is slow. Much of the book takes place on garrison duty in Ireland and the bleak future facing those with little prospects in the army. The monotony is broken with news of Napoleon's escape from Elba and the war looming on the horizon. Soon the regiment is posted to Wellington¹s Army in Belgium and is caught up in the maelstrom of the final campaign of the Napoleonic Wars.

The strength of Mallinson's writing lies in his character development and attention to detail, especially when dealing with horses, cavalry, and the religious convictions of the time. The book moves along at a steady pace, which never seems to break into a charge. Unfortunately the battle scenes, which one would expect to be the core of any book about Waterloo, are written with a curious detachment that makes the reader a spectator rather than a participant, unlike the Richard Sharpe novels. The book will appeal to those who appreciate the detail and dialog of Patrick O'Brian's novels.

Reviewed by Robert Burnham, FINS


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