The Barbed Crown --- by William Dietrich. --- The first is the best. Or so they say. Napoleon’s Pyramids and the Rosetta Stone were my first Dietrich novels: they engaged and hooked me from the start. That rascal Gage seemed to never been caught flat footed even though his misadventures followed one after the other. The two books raced along at breakneck pace with barely enough time to allow one to catch one’s breath. But with this one, his most recent novel pursuing the misadventures of Gage I’m already well into the book wondering when it will start. Lethargy. Most confounding. But Dietrich does eventually hit his stride and Gage resumes his usual adventures, shuttled back and forth between the British spy master Sydney Smith and the long-suffering Napoleon. Our grand finale: Gage as a sharpshooter high aloft in the riggings of Redoubtable, the ship that engaged Nelson’s flagship, the Victory. At the battle’s conclusion we have a picture of Gage, in a lifeboat, small sail rigged to take him back to Cadiz and out of harm’s way, avoiding the hurricane that is about to lash the survivoprs of the Battle of Trafalgar. So Gage’s author redeems himself. Except for one thing. There’s no tupping.
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