Tom Connery,
Markham of the Marines #1: A Shred of Honour
(Regnery, 1999)

Lt. George Markham isn't well liked, by either his superiors or his subordinates. An officer with an unfair reputation for cowardice, questionable parentage and an unpopular nation of origin (Ireland) and religion (Catholicism) among the English Protestant majority, he is met with disdain, if not outright hostility, at every turn.

His men, a mixed bag of army regulars and marines thrust together by necessity, are united only in their disobedience -- a feeling which grows markedly when Markham is forced into command when the popular but untried unit captain is killed in action in 1793.

But Markham and his men are quickly sent into the heat of battle as England contends with Revolutionary France during the four-month siege of Toulon. There, Markham's courage is proven and his men -- those who survive the slaughter -- are gradually beaten into a cohesive unit.

During the course of the action, as well as the interludes in between, Markham rubs elbows with some of the luminaries of the day -- most notably a young Horatio Nelson and Napoleon Bonaparte. And he even finds time for romance, of a sort, as France pounds the beleagured port city into ruins.

Tom Connery's A Shred of Honour is the first of a three-book series about Markham's adventures. While I won't rank it among my favorite series from that period, it's a strong story nonetheless -- with an underdog protagonist you can't help but root for and some horrific battlefield and aftermath scenes that will make readers cringe at the horror of it all.

Connery has a deft touch at handling action, although readers who favor nautical prose won't find much here; although, as marines, Markham's men fall under the command of the admiralty, they spend most of the book on land.

book review by
Tom Knapp

13 January 2018

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