A Shred of Honour
Review by Niall Kelly
A first novel by a new author.
The novel is set in 1793 and the hero is George Markham, an infantry lieutenant with a past, seconded to the Royal Marines, together with a platoon of misfits from his Regiment, the 65th. Foot. An Irishman, a Papist, and a reputed coward Markham had previously served in the Russian Army as a mercenary officer, and had gained a reputation as a coward in the British Army during the American War of Independence.
He knows nothing of ships or how to fight a ship, or indeed the duties of a Marine Officer and, as the story opens, is having to command his marine platoon on the Hebe frigate, without much of a clue as to what to do. This earns him the wrath of his Captain. However, the action soon moves ashore, as Markham and his platoon are landed at Toulon, then in the hands of the Bourbon French, to help in its defense against the Revolutionary forces. The plot then follows his further adventures as he attempts to gain the control and respective of his platoon, especially his Sergeant, a giant Scotsman with what can only be described as an attitude problem. The platoon is an unfortunate mix of infantrymen and marines, with both sides disliking and despising the other. Along the way he meets his old commander from his American days - this man is part of his past, and they loathe each other. Unfortunately this man, Colonel Hangar, is now commander of the British forces in Toulon, and does his best to make Markham's life a misery.
The story follows, I presume, the actual events of the siege of Toulon. And during the course of his stay Markham meets, amongst others, both Nelson, then Captain of the Agammenon, and Bonaparte, then a Captain in the Revolutionary Army Artillery. The plot involves spies, a false Dauphin, betrayal, and various other nefarious activities.
By the end of the novel, Markham has gained the support and respect of both his superiors and inferiors. Sergeant Rannoch is now his supporter, and the infantrymen and marines have put aside their difficulties. The novel ends with Markham and his infantrymen transferring permanently to the Royal Marines - apparantly a step up from the Infantry.
A Shred of Honour is, presumably, the first in a series of novels featuring George Markham. It may briefly be summed up as “Bolitho merged with Sharpe bashes the French and annoys the Boss”.
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