Friday, November 25, 2011

Patriote Peril, by Thomas Thorpe


Black Rose Writing, ISBN 9781612960661, November 2011

This is a mystery/political thriller set in 1830s Canada. It's also part of Thorpe's Darmon Mystery series.

Elizabeth Darmon, her husband William, and sister and brother-in-law Emily and Charles Bagwell, have traveled to Canada to visit Elizabeth and Emily's other sister, Victoria, and her husband Richard Hudson, at the hunting lodge Richard built two years ago. During their visit, Richard takes his wife and guests off on a carriage ride to see some of the local sites, but Elizabeth has a headache and remains at the Lodge. The carriage comes back empty.

Elizabeth gets a horse from the stable and goes off to look for her relatives, while telling a stable hand to go to the nearest town and alert the authorities. When she cannot find them, she returns to the Lodge, only to find that it has burned down in the few hours she's been gone, and if any servants survived, they are not in evidence. Elizabeth is off on a wild and harrowing hunt to find her apparently kidnapped family.

And the reader is off on a haphazard and sometimes confusing tale of struggles for survival in the wilderness, political intrigue, commercial fraud, murder, and mistaken identities. Elizabeth arrives in Quebec City to find that  a man and woman are impersonating her and her husband. William, Emily, and Victoria are stranded on an island in Lake Champlain with no shelter and little in the way of supplies. Charles, shot in the initial attack and left for dead, is alive, but has completely lost his memory of everything prior to the moment he wakes up, wounded, in the snow. William swims to shore, intending to bring back help for Emily and Victoria, discovers a Canadien plot against the colonial government, and by the time he returns his sisters-in-law are gone. Charles, of course, gets caught up in the plot.

One of the differences between fiction and real life is that fiction makes sense. Patriote Peril adheres a little too closely to real life's freedom to not make any sense. There are too many coincidences, people just miss each other too often, too many cases of mistaken identity. Charles Bagwell does the medically unlikely but not impossible thing of losing his entire memory, all knowledge of his identity and past life. Then another blow to the head causes him to remember his past life but not anything since leaving England--just when it will cause maximum confusion and result in him doing the plot-required "wrong thing." Then another blow on the head returns him to only remembering events since he woke up wounded in the snow...

It's an adequate read; I wasn't tempted to throw it against the wall or anything. It also has the virtue of looking at a period and a region Americans don't read about much.

It's a lightweight fun read, but not to be read if you're in a critical mood or looking for something of real substance.

I received a free electronic galley from the author.