Source: Review copy
Publication: 22 September 2022 from Canelo Adventure
My thanks to Canelo for an advance copy for review
1715. Jonas Flynt, ex-soldier and reluctant member of the Company of Rogues, a shady intelligence group run by ruthless spymaster Nathaniel Charters, is ordered to recover a missing document. Its contents could prove devastating in the wrong hands.
On her deathbed, the late Queen Anne may have promised the nation to her half-brother James, the Old Pretender, rather than the new king, George I. But the will has been lost. It may decide the fate of the nation.
The crown must recover it at all costs.
The trail takes Jonas from the dark and dangerous streets of London to an Edinburgh in chaos. He soon realises there are others on the hunt, and becomes embroiled in a long overdue family reunion, a jail break and a brutal street riot.
When secrets finally come to light, about the crown and about his own past, Jonas will learn that some truths, once discovered, can never be untold…
Douglas Skelton has written a cracker of a historical novel in An Honourable Thief. It is a fascinating blend of fact and fiction with a fantastic protagonist in Jonas Flynt, a well-defined and richly atmospheric sense of place and great style and pace throughout.
Set in the time of the Jacobite rebellion, the action moves between London and Edinburgh with a trip to the battlefields of Sherrifmuir. Our protagonist, Jonas Flynt, is scarred from the battles of his past and is now in hock to Colonel Nathaniel Chambers, a man with an extensive network of spies known as The Company of Rogues, which he purports to run on behalf of the Crown.
It is 1715 and Queen Anne has recently passed. Rumours abound of a letter she may have written naming her Catholic half-brother, The Old Pretender, James Francis Edward Stuart as her heir and therefore King. But there is no sign of this letter and Chambers charges Flynt to find it and bring it to him.
Of course Flynt is not by far the only one searching for a letter which could change the course of history and Skelton has laid in store for him a range of formidable enemies, not the least of whom is the delightful Madame de Fontaine, a worthy adversary.
In pursuit of the letter, Flynt has to face up to his past; a past he ran away from many years ago, leaving his family, friends and his lover, Cassie without a word. Now he must return to his birthplace, Edinburgh, and make amends as best he can.
Skelton’s writing is engaging and his characters leap from the page practically begging you to embrace them. They are richly drawn, vivid and easy to envisage in the mind’s eye. The action is taken at a rollicking pace and there are many revelations and twisty moments as Jonas tries to work his way through a quagmire of lies and betrayal in pursuit of his goal.
Verdict: There’s lots of intrigue, action and emotion in this historical novel which balances the personal and the historical rather beautifully to produce a rip-roaring novel that I’d be happy to gift to anyone this Christmas. This is the start of a new series and if the others are as good as this, I’ll happily sign up to read the lot!
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Douglas Skelton has published twelve non fiction books and ten crime thrillers. He has been a bank clerk, tax officer, shelf stacker, meat porter, taxi driver (for two days), wine waiter (for two hours), reporter, investigator and local newspaper editor. He has been longlisted three times for the McIlvanney Prize, most recently in 2022. Douglas contributes to true crime shows on TV and radio and is a regular on the crime writing festival circuit.