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Sharpe Can Find No Peace
on 2 July 2009
"Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY," says the Lord. -- Romans 12:19
War's end is always a mixed blessing for professional soldiers and sailors. They are tired of fighting, glad to be alive, but wonder if they can deal the peace.
At home, they may not get the respect they deserve. They may find that people have been plotting against them.
As the days ran out for Napoleon, those thoughts and issues were on the mind of Major Richard Sharpe as he arranged a duel ("grass before breakfast") to gain revenge against the naval Captain Bampfylde who abandoned Sharpe and his men behind enemy lines and arrogantly sought to claim credit for a victory that belonged to the army. Sharpe's wife Jane hates the thought of a duel and headed off to England angry.
After the duel, there's still a battle to be fought. Marshal Soult's army is defending Toulouse and Sharpe is given a staff position in the battle. But naturally, he soon finds himself wielding his sword. After the battle, there's bitter irony in learning that the Emperor Napoleon had abdicated several days before.
Then, it's time to head home. There's tragedy as all those women who married without a colonel's permission are denied transport to England.
Before he can leave, Sharpe and Captain Frederickson find themselves falsely accused of stealing an enormous treasure. How will they cleanse themselves of dishonor? Could it be that an old enemy is involved?
This story should be thought of as a continuation of Sharpe's Siege because most of the same characters are involved. At the same time, the main theme is about the fickleness of governments, armies, war, and fate.
I thought that this was by far the least interesting story in the entire Sharpe series. It meanders slowly around and seems to be more like a series of short stories than one smoothly connected novel. The battle scenes aren't nearly as interesting as in the best of the books. The story's development left me feeling a little dirty and disgusted . . . not feelings that I usually have been reading about Sharpe.
Unless you feel that you have to read every book in this series, you could probably skip this one and be none the worse for the decision.