It might be thought that effective espionage has only existed in the 20th century, but as the British Director of Military Operations, James Edmonds, commented in 1908, the military successes of Napoleon and Wellington "were largely due to carefully elaborated spy systems". Napoleon himself is reputed to have said that a spy in the right place was worth 40,000 men, although his famous spy Schulmeister was only ever rewarded with plenty of money and not the Legion d'Honneur he reputedly craved. On the other side of the coin, the French would regularly attribute their setbacks to "English gold". The authoress tells the story of the operations run by the British during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Begun by the Aliens Office to control French agitators among the émigrés fleeing Revolutionary France, under Wickham the networks expanded into a system capable of both gathering vital military and political intelligence, while channelling money to the Continental Allies. It should be more accurately described as the activities of both the British and French, as the various French factions and leaders jockey for position backed by Britain. Virtually anyone of any consequence is included, plus unsavoury characters and throughout the story, the shadowy and cunning Joseph Fouche lives a charmed life, keeping just enough incriminating documentation out of Napoleon's way to prevent the Emperor taking decisive action against him. The success of the British network is stunning - they are often in control of the Paris police - as they attempt to support a series of potential new rulers in France (and ultimately Bonaparte). Then, they act in support of their Allies against the expansionist plans of Emperor Napoleon. There were disasters too, especially in 1804, when the network is broken up by Napoleon's men. In fact all the elements of a good spy story are here, including double-crosses, bribes, multiple aliases, assassination conspiracies, spies dressed as monks, the unfortunate souls who found themselves sacrificed to save operations or senior individuals. Naturally, the authoress concentrates on the Anglo-French duel, but there are many interesting details included which influence the Wars in general, notably the Bank of France's near-bankruptcy in Sept 1805. Aside from the murder of Tsar Paul I, something that has remained an opaque subject until this book, she can only briefly look at the activities of the Continental Allies, but there are several smoking guns left east of the Rhine, which are worthy of further investigation. Few books in the last twenty years have added greatly to our knowledge of the Napoleonic period, but this is certainly one of them. Just one word of caution - this is not a James Bond novel! These men were involved in something far more complex and were doing it for real. The first 30 pages or so see a whole series of characters emerging in quick succession as the British deal with the various factions, so take it steady at the start. All becomes clear soon after, especially when the focus turns directly on Consul and later Emperor Napoleon. The real backdrop to many key events emerges - ever wondered how Napoleon eluded the British blockade of Egypt? Essential and worthwhile reading.