Tuesday, 14 April 2015

The Devil's Assassin by Paul Fraser Collard

review by Maryom
Following his adventures, and misadventures, in The Maharajah's General, Jack Lark is living in Bombay, passing himself off as Lieutenant Arthur Fenris, really down on his luck and running desperately short of cash. Then his deception is uncovered by army intelligence officer Major Ballard, known to many as the Devil, who feels he could use a man like Jack to track down and assassinate a spy believed to be giving British intelligence to the enemy. In Persia the Shah is massing troops, getting ready to strike against British forces, and as the army is sent out to take them on, Jack's task really begins...

So, here's Jack Lark back for another adventure - and an excellent one it is too. The story moves from India, west to Persia as Jack joins the campaign against the Shah; a bit of history that I knew nothing about  but which, with the British and the Russians struggling to gain influence in the region, all seemed rather more recent than 150 years ago!
This time, Jack is supposed to be keeping his head down, out of the actual fighting, trying to recover documents and sift through them for evidence of someone passing information about troop movements to the Persians. Jack of course has his own opinion about this - and orders are something he's never keen on following - so will he stay out of the battle? Not likely, is it? at the first opportunity he's throwing himself into the thick of it, leading by example and all too often being the man who saves the day! Well, it wouldn't be Jack if he didn't!
As you'd expect there's a lot of action, but it isn't all blind heroics. There are gruelling marches under the desert heat or torrential rain, the grip of fear as the troops await their orders to advance, the inevitable bloody aftermath of battle; the author isn't out to show merely the glory of warfare but the unpleasant realities of it too. Jack isn't a senseless killer but believes that his role in life is to serve his country in the best way he knows how - through fighting. As prone to fear as the next man, he cares deeply for the men under his command and tries to inspire them through example - a contrast to many of the other officers!
There's a little romance on the side for Jack in the breaks between the fighting - an affair with the curiously independent Sarah Draper, who, leaving her husband back in Bombay, has joined the expeditionary forces with the intent of writing a memoir of the campaign.
I think the Jack Lark series is improving all the time. It's lots of fun, while capturing the feel of the time and shedding light on some obscure passages from history. Jack is getting that little bit older, and hopefully wiser, and I'm really curious to see what he will do next!

Maryom's review -  4.5 stars
Publisher - Headline 
Genre - Historical fiction, action adventure,

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