The Eagle and the Viper by Loren Estleman

53205889Thanks to NetGalley and Forge Books for this free Advance copy in return for my honest review.
Despite over 200,000 books being written about Napoleon, Loren Estleman tackles a much overlooked subject in his latest Historical Fiction/Suspense novel, an attempted assassination of Napoleon.
Little really has been written in recent years about the plot to kill Napoleon on Christmas Eve in 1800. Estleman uses this real world event to spin a tale about a fictional assassination attempt that is hatched after the Christmas Eve plot failed.
From the very beginning this book grips you as we follow the original plotters of the failed Christmas Eve bombing, and come to realize just how close those men came to altering the course of history. Napoleon rose to power while revolution was still in the air, and there were many both inside and outside of France who wanted to see him ousted as First Consul. Despite the many Civil Law reforms he created, the overall stability he brought to France, as well as the countries standing as a world power, many wanted him ousted since he turned the cannons on Parisians to quell rioting a few years prior to this.
Upon learning of the failed Christmas Eve attempt to kill Napoleon, the Pro-Royalist movement decided they would take matters into their own hands. These individuals had many supporters in England, a great many of whom were powerful and wealthy aristocrats who wanted a return of the Bourbon Monarchy to France so as to keep Republicanism from jumping the channel into England. The plotters are led by Georges Cadoudal, a former officer in the French army who has fled to England to live under the protection of the Earl of Rexborough, and while there we meet a mysterious stranger who will come to dominate this book. While refusing to give his real name or background this man who will eventually be known as the Viper, is a hired assassin and provides sufficient information and details that Cadodal agrees to hire him for the price of 5 Million francs.
The book is filled with both historical characters such as Cadoudal, Napoleon and Josephine, French police minister Joseph Fouche and Nicolas Dubois the Prefect of Police, as well as fictional characters who play a major part in the book.
The action moves back and forth from Paris to England, to rural France and Estleman paints a very realistic story about how life was at that time, since plotters were believed to be everywhere, spies and police informants blanketed the land, and people were afraid to speak out loud for fear of saying something that might land them in prison.
We never learn the identity of the Viper, nor what his connection was to the French military or his hatred of Napoleon, but along the way from England to Paris he weaves even more tales as to his identity and intimidates many. Despite what appears to Viper to be a foolproof journey and assassination, little troubles plague his once he gets to France, and he lets his guard down a few times which has major consequences for both Viper and those who cross him.
How will he get close to Napoleon? How will he attempt to kill him and escape are never known until the very end. And all the while as Viper makes his way to Paris we are also privy to the efforts being made by Fouche, Dubois and others to sift through stacks of reports on suspicious characters, as well as trying to stop Viper and arrest those who are behind this plot.
A well written book that is filled with historical accuracy, The Eagle and The Viper is a page-turner that kept this reader up to 4:00 AM to finish. When it ended you are just amazed at how wonderful a tale Estleman has written and hope he will again delve into the fascinating world of The Eagle, better known as Napoleon. Originally posted at mystery and suspense.com

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