Reviewed by David Maclaine
Like its predecessor in the Kydd series, Betrayal has a title that will reinforce the historically informed reader's suspicions about the outcome of the nautical expedition that dominates the novel. Fear not - there are enough surprises in store in this thirteenth Kydd adventure to keep readers hooked. The expedition is launched after a restless commander in newly conquered South Africa convinces his subordinates that an invasion of South America is a good idea, despite the absence of orders from London to justify such a risky endeavor. Captain Thomas Paine Kydd agrees that a strike at the possessions of Napoleon's Spanish allies, fueled by rumors of revolutionary unrest and unprotected treasure, seems a good idea. His friend Renzi, busy with the idea of turning his dramatic life into fiction, is far more skeptical. Nevertheless, with Kydd in command of one of the ships, the fleet from Cape Town sails, and arrives in the huge estuary of the River Plate. There they discover that treacherous shallows severely hamper their ability to use their ships. The task of conquest falls mainly to a meager army, which must hope that its legendary resolve and discipline can overcome the usual shortfall in numbers. If they do manage a victory, their long-term success or failure will hinge on whether the promised aid from local rebels materializes. Here the novel's title rather gives away the outcome - but without lessening suspense.
In Betrayal, author Julian Stockwin reveals secrets to the reader that his main characters have not suspected, by showing the councils of their betrayers. The effect actually heightens suspense, with the reader's anxiety over the betrayal adding an extra layer of tension as crucial events unfold. The twists and turns of the story offer ample surprise, and the author's masterful recreation of the challenges posed by the great river's maze of shifting shoals is nearly matched by his keen-eyed depiction of complex rivalries and counterplots ashore. (2012, 320 pages)More about Betrayal at Powell's Books or Amazon.com