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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars First in what Promises to be An Entertaining Series
This is the first in what is hoped to be a series of Jack Lark books.
The second ' The Maharajah's General' has already been published.

It is a good read. exciting informative and captures the army, the battles and paraphernalia of the times well.
At just over 350 pages it does not outstay its welcome once.

True many will link this book to...
Published 4 months ago by Glenn Cook

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars First novel and with a focus on the Crimea
A fair to good first novel which follows the adventures and misadventures of Jack Lark and his later impersonation of an officer, in England and then in the Crimean War. The book is very readable and if not a page-turner certainly keeps the readers interest. The main focus of the book, and most chapters, are devoted to the Crimean campaign, and particularly the lead up...
Published 2 months ago by Dr. Paul Ell


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another likeable hero, 16 Jun 2014
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Enjoyed it. Good plot and subplots. Gripping description of battles (quite gory) and great historical research. Excellent idea behind the story and surprising characters. Well written and very enjoyable. I recommend it to fans of historical fighting heroes!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Vivid and horrifying picture of the atrocities of war., 21 May 2014
Reading The Scarlet Thief at this point in time was an oddly well-timed choice as it turns out, set as it is in the Crimea. It appears history truly can be cyclical if one compares what is revealed about the origins of the Crimean War with what is happening there now. It was also a closer look at a conflict I've never learned that much about, beyond Florence Nightingale and Tennyson's The Charge of the Light Brigade. And what a hopeless conflict it was. Paul Fraser Collard paints us a vivid and horrifying picture of life at the front and the terrible cost of life, not just to the armed forces on both sides, but to the innocent inhabitants of the Crimea as well, who were burned out of their houses and robbed of all their possessions in a scorched earth policy to deny resources and cover to the enemy. But The Scarlet Thief is more than descriptions of death and horrible war wounds, there is also a lot of humour and a wonderful protagonist who will capture your heart.

Said character is Jack Lark, former mud lark from London's seedier streets. As a commoner, Jack's opportunities for advancement are limited. He will never be able to rise above the rank of a non-commissioned officer, with Quartermaster being the pinnacle of achievement. For a young man set on bettering himself and one who considers many officers incompetents, this is a frustrating situation to be in. He feels that the redcoats are not treated well by their officers and he has some rather progressive (for the time) ideas as to how one should lead his men. The way his frustrated ambitions influence his decisions was interesting, unlike another factor influencing him that I didn't care as much for--his relationship with Molly. Molly was my biggest problem with this book. Not the character in itself, which was fine, but her story arc and how this was used to move the plot forward felt a little clichéd and it's a trope we've seen many times before. Once Jack and his officer, Arthur Sloames, leave the Aldershot garrison to join the King's Royal Fusiliers and ship out to the Crimea the narrative picked up and really started speeding up once Jack arrives at Kalamata Bay.

Collard shows the bleak life of the enlisted (or drafted) men in the Victorian British Army, one on the cusp of modernity with its leaders struggling to adjust their thinking and strategies to new materiel and changing social mores. Jack's leading from the front fits right in with this. Jack starts of despising the other officers thinking them all arrogant aristo's who are only there because they had the money not because they had the skills, but throughout the book he learns that they are not all alike and comes to view them in a different light. In fact, Jack's connection with some of his fellows and first his officer are delightful and one of the strengths of the book. The way he bonds with his orderly was wonderful and I loved how he gains respect for his second-in-command Digsby-Brown. I adored the quiet scenes we're shown of camaraderie between the men and the way that they all become equal, be they enlisted or criminal conscript. But not just Jack's dealing with his friends is wonderfully written, The Scarlet Thief has a fantastic villain in Sergeant Slater and some more equally distasteful characters, most notable the aptly named Major Peacock.

One element that confused me was the troop formations. There were divisions and brigades and companies and they all had different names and in the end I rather lost track of how the command structure worked and who belonged with whom. This difficulty might be due to my unfamiliarity with the British Army of that era, but this was one of those occasions where an appendix showing how the forces were structured would have been useful. Then again, it seems as if once the battle started the hierarchy in and structure of the army didn't really matter in any case, as it's one chaotic mess and many soldiers lost their unit and forgot their orders anyway. The battle depicted is terrifying, chaotic, noisy, stinking of death and blood and an enormous amount of casualties, who often perished from the most gruesome wounds.

The Scarlet Thief is an impressive look at the atrocities of war; unflinching in its descriptions and honest in its assessment of its characters' human nature in all of its beauty and monstrosity. Collard leaves us with a great set up for the following book, which promises to be interesting and very different from the Crimea. I'm curious to see where exactly Jack will go in The Maharajah's General and whether he'll remain there or move on to a new identity after. Needless to say I'll be back to check in with our Mr Lark in the next book, hopefully sooner than later as I already have the review copy for it on my shelf. The Scarlet Thief is a must-read for any lover of military historical fiction.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a great read, 26 Feb 2014
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sjs101 "SJ" (UK) - See all my reviews
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jack lark is a new hero. the book is well written and has a decent pace at which it moves along, which holds the readers interest. I am not usually one for historical fiction but I really enjoyed this book await the next instalment with anticipation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read, 19 Feb 2014
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This review is from: The Scarlet Thief (Jack Lark Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
A good read, a book that I was loath to put down but found excuses to pick up and continue
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars well written & informative, 27 Jan 2014
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This review is from: The Scarlet Thief (Jack Lark Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
The one criticism I have is the story was predictable and the more I read I became sure I had previously read a very similar storyline.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Scarlet Thief, 23 Jan 2014
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Je Salter (UK) - See all my reviews
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This book was suggested to me by friends who had read and recommended it. These days it takes something quite special to tear me away from reading novels about the Roman Empire/Republic but as more people said how good it was, I decided to give it a go and I'm glad I did. I've read books about the Napoleonic era before but never the Crimea, so it was going to be very different.

Within a very few pages, the author had me hooked with his writing style and the characters he had created, as well as those who had taken part in the battle of Alma in reality. The premise of the story is entirely believable and I wouldn't be surprised if it had hadn't actually happened in 1854. I won't say what that is just in case you haven't read it.

The main character, Jack Lark is a likeable individual, who at the beginning of the story is merely attempting to improve his lot, for both himself and his girl, who works in the Laundry room at Aldershot Barracks, where he is stationed. As an orderly to one Captain Soames, Jack is in a better position than his fellow redcoats but as the story moves forward, things change drastically.

In no time at all, Jack finds himself knee deep in bullets, mud and gore as his Regiment comes into contact with the massed ranks of the Russian army. What follows is a great story and Jack Lark's struggle to prove himself and win glory against almost impossible odds. The details are well researched and the scenes realistic as they allow the reader to easily conjure up the horrors of war.

If you like a gripping novel that will leave you wanting more, that involves intrigue, action, betrayal and believable characters, then The Scarlet Thief by Paul Fraser Collard is most certainly a book for you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent action., 5 Jan 2014
By 
M. S. Richards "twitchwilliams" (UK) - See all my reviews
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A thumping good yarn, full of action, character and style. This is the historical equivalent of a James Cameron movie: well structured, filled to the brim with bone-crunching battle scenes, but with enough room for the characters to take a breath, every once in a while, before the next thrilling bout of daring-do. The ending leaves you hungry for the next instalment, and you'll want to ride along with Jack Lark on further adventures.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling, 8 Dec 2013
By 
M. Williams "Matt Williams" (Essex, England) - See all my reviews
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When you've read all the way through Bernard Cornwall's Sharpe where do you go next? To Paul Fraser Collard's Jack Lark, that's where! I loved this book - well paced with enough history to frame the well told story, plenty of action and a sense of realism that I enjoyed and that kept me turning the pages.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well crafted, 19 Nov 2013
By 
Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog "Falcata T... - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Scarlet Thief (Jack Lark Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
I've heard quite a bit about Paul from friends of mine who are avid Historical Fiction fans. They promised an epic debut with characters that I'd love to spend time around with so many facets that I'd be hooked from the start to finish. So with all that promise I really couldn't wait to see what would unfurl within.

Firstly for a debut novel it's a cracking title. The characters within do stand on their own and whilst the history is cleverly woven within, it doesn't feel like its treating the reader to a history lesson but weaves need to know within with ease. Add to this solid prose, high octane battle sequences and all round a tale that was a pure joy to read as every twist revealed itself. Definitely something for fans of well crafted battle sequences and something that will stay with you for quite some time. I'm just pleased I have the second to read straight away.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Debut!, 6 July 2013
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T. Walker (Bedfordshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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The Year is 1854. Jack Lark is an orderly in the army, looking after Captain Sloames and stuck in Aldershot. His officer fancies a taste of glory and war when they discover the regiment is being posted to the Indies, renowned as a place with a very high death rate from fever and disease, so he applies for a transfer to another regiment, going to fight the Russians in the Crimea. There is a sadistic colour sergeant who picks on Jack and tries to rape his girlfriend. Jack fights him off, but he's made an enemy for life, so Sloames' decision comes at a good time.
On the way to the new posting, Soames falls ill and dies. In desperation to avoid being sent back to the sergeant's clutches, Jack takes over Sloames position - now read on.
This is a well written book with carefully drafted characters that one can identify with (Jack) or hate (Sergeant Slater). The battle scenes are well written, bloody and brutal. The author, Paul Collard, was raised on Sharpe and Flashman and his admiration for Bernard Cornwell and George MacDonald Fraser shines through. As far as I can tell the historical facts are about right. I was a bit concerned about the mention of revolvers initially, but later in the book the author tells us the pistol in question was a percussion Beaumont-Adams. If I wanted to nitpick I could point out that this gun was not adopted until 1856, but it's a minor point. The rifles described as "Minie Rifles" would be the 1853 pattern Enfield, which certainly saw service in the Crimea, and the desrcription of it's lethal killing power is correct, being effective out to 600 yards and deadly at 100, able to penetrate several people through and through. (And I can brag of having one on my wall!)
So a great start then for what would appear to be a series and recommended for lovers of historical military fiction.
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