Saturday Sleuthing: The Napoleonic Wars, The Russian Revolution, World War I, World War II and a Gothic Ghost Story

Today my book sleuthing has uncovered a number of novels from authors that I have not read before, though three are from the one author.

Lieutenant and Mrs Lockwood by Mark Bois 

"Captain Barr desperately wanted to kill Lieutenant Lockwood. He thought constantly of doing so, though he had long since given up any consideration of a formal duel. Lockwood, after all, was a good shot and a fine swordsman; a knife in the back would do. And then Barr dreamt of going back to Ireland, and of taking Brigid Lockwood for his own." So begins the story of Lieutenant James Lockwood, his wife Brigid, and his deadly rivalry - professional and romantic - with Charles Barr. Lockwood and Barr hold each other's honor hostage, at a time when a man's honor meant more than his life. But can a man as treacherous as Charles Barr be trusted to keep secret the disgrace that could irrevocably ruin Lockwood and his family? Against a backdrop of famine and uprising in Ireland, and the war between Napoleon and Wellington, showing the famous Inniskilling Regiment in historically accurate detail, here is a romance for the ages, and for all time. ..

There is an in-depth review of this novel by Robert Burnham on the The Napoleon Series website.

This is Mark Bois' debut novel and is the first of a series. The reason I added this to my wish list is the two different perspectives: the officer on active service in the West Indies and eventually at Waterloo, and the family he leaves behind in Ireland.

The Hour of Parade by Alan Bray

"The past pressed on him so that he felt he must fall to his knees. If he could just tell Valsin all that had happened-then the younger man might understand and redeem them both." One violent act draws together three very different people in Alan Bray's haunting debut, "The Hour of Parade." The year is 1806, and Russian cavalry officer Alexi Ruzhensky journeys to Munich to kill the man responsible for murdering his brother in a duel, French officer Louis Valsin. Already thwarted once at the Battle of Austerlitz by Valsin's lover, Anne-Marie, Alexi has been told by his father not to fail again. Obsessed by the main character in Jean-Jacques Rousseau's novel "Julie," Alexi becomes romantically entangled with a beautiful and passionate young Bavarian woman. He hides his true identity and befriends Valsin and Anne-Marie, only to find that he has no thirst for blood. As the three grow closer, tensions mount as Alexi and Anne-Marie desperately try to resist their growing attraction. But as the novel comes to its explosive conclusion, Alexi will learn that revenge cannot be forgotten so easily. An intricately woven history of love, lust, and murder, "The Hour of Parade "proves itself an epic romance for the ages.

My reason for selecting this novel is that though set during the Napoleonic Wars it is not a war story, but one of relationships and family honour.

The Last Campaign of Marianne Tambour: A Novel of Waterloo by David Ebsworth 

On the bloody fields of Waterloo, a battle-weary canteen mistress of Bonaparte's Imperial Guard battalions must fight to free her daughter from all the perils that war will hurl against them - before this last campaign can kill them both.

The book blurb above is very brief, but a review written by Susan Howard and posted on The Napoleon Series website gives a much better description of this novel.

This is David Ebsworth's fourth novel.  His debut novel was The Jacobite's Apprentice, another on my wish list. Once again this novel was selected because of its different perspective: Waterloo through the eyes of women at the battle.

The Absolutist by John Boyne

September 1919: Twenty-years-old Tristan Sadler takes a train from London to Norwich to deliver a clutch of letters to Marian Bancroft. Tristan fought alongside Marian's brother Will during the Great War. They trained together. They fought together. But in 1917, Will laid down his guns on the battlefield and declared himself a conscientious objector, an act which has brought shame and dishonour on the Bancroft family. The letters, however, are not the real reason for Tristan's visit. He holds a secret deep within him. One that he is desperate to unburden himself of to Marian, if he can only find the courage. Whatever happens, this meeting will change his life - forever.

John Boyne is the author of many novels. One of them, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, was made into a film with the same name.  The World War I setting

The House of Special Purpose by John Boyne

Russia, 1915: Sixteen year old farmer's son Georgy Jachmenev steps in front of an assassin's bullet intended for a senior member of the Russian Imperial Family and is instantly proclaimed a hero. Rewarded with the position of bodyguard to Alexei Romanov, the only son of Tsar Nicholas II, the course of his life is changed for ever. Privy to the secrets of Nicholas and Alexandra, the machinations of Rasputin and the events which will lead to the final collapse of the autocracy, Georgy is both a witness and participant in a drama that will echo down the century. Sixty-five years later, visiting his wife Zoya as she lies in a London hospital, memories of the life they have lived together flood his mind. And with them, the consequences of the brutal fate of the Romanovs which has hung like a shroud over every aspect of their marriage...

This novel appealed to me because it offers a look at history from a different perspective. I'm also a fan of dual time frame novels

This House is Haunted by John Boyne

1867. Eliza Caine arrives in Norfolk to take up her position as governess at Gaudlin Hall on a dark and chilling night. As she makes her way across the station platform, a pair of invisible hands push her from behind into the path of an approaching train. She is only saved by the vigilance of a passing doctor. When she finally arrives, shaken, at the hall she is greeted by the two children in her care, Isabella and Eustace. There are no parents, no adults at all, and no one to represent her mysterious employer. The children offer no explanation. Later that night in her room, a second terrifying experience further reinforces the sense that something is very wrong. From the moment she rises the following morning, her every step seems dogged by a malign presence which lives within Gaudlin's walls. Eliza realises that if she and the children are to survive its violent attentions, she must first uncover the hall's long-buried secrets and confront the demons of its past.

The cover and the Norfolk setting drew my attention to this novel.Occasionally I like to read a good ghost story, which I hope this is.

We Shall Remember by Emma Fraser

1939. Irena is a young medical student living in Warsaw when the German army invade Poland. Those closest to her are dying and when Irena realises that no one is coming to Poland's aid, it's clear that she is alone. Forced to flee to Britain, Irena meets Richard, a RAF pilot who she's instantly drawn to and there's a glimmer of happiness on the horizon. And then the war becomes more brutal and in order to right a never-forgotten wrong Irena must make an impossible decision. 1989. Decades later, Sarah's mother is left a home in Skye and another in Edinburgh following the death of Lord Glendale, a man she's never met, and only on the condition that Magdalena Drobnik, a woman she's never heard of, is no longer alive. Sarah's only clues to this mystery are two photographs she doesn't understand but she's determined to discover the truth, not knowing that she's about to begin a journey that will change her life. Gripping, poignant and honest, We Shall Remember is an incredibly powerful story about the choices we make under fire.

The dual time frame and my Polish heritage is responsible for this one being added to my wish list.


  1. I love John Boyne! I haven't read The Absolutist or The House of Special Purpose yet, but I really enjoyed This House is Haunted - it's a great Victorian ghost story.

    1. It's a long time since I've read a really good ghost story. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on this one. Thanks, Helen.

  2. The House of Special Purpose and This House Is Haunted are both very good. The structure of the former is very clever, and the latter is full of creepy gothic atmosphere. We Shall Remember is on my wishlist. I'd seen it around but hadn't realized it was a dual-time novel, and that makes it all the more interesting to me.

    1. Hi Sarah. I'm very keen to read the John Boyne novels. The House of Special Purpose sounds more interesting now that you mention its structure. I'm pleased This House Is Haunted is full of atmosphere. That's exactly how I like my ghost stories.
      Emma Fraser's first novel When The Dawn Breaks looks good too.