Review: Burke and the Pimpernel Affair by Tom Williams

1809: when a mission running agents into Napoleon’s France goes horribly wrong, it’s up to Burke to save the day. With the French secret police on his trail, can he stay alive long enough to free British spies from imprisonment in the centre of Paris? And how does the Empress Josephine fit into his plans?

Burke’s most daring adventure yet sees him and his loyal companion William Brown using all their cunning and courage to survive as they move from the brilliance of Napoleon’s court and Society parties to the darker Paris of brothels and gambling dens.

Amazon | Goodreads

My Review

I received a digital copy of this book from the author and am reviewing it on behalf of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team #RBRT. Thank you to Tom Williams and Rosie.

Burke and the Pimpernel Affair is book six in a series of adventures involving Major James Burke, an actual person who existed according to the author. This is the first of these I have read, and worked very well as a standalone. It is a story of post war politics and intrigue, with Burke sent to France by his superior, Colonel Gordon, to act as a British spy in the Paris environs, seeking the weakness in a chain of safe houses run by the Alien Office, from where a number of British agents have been disappearing.

As the author details in his Historical Note at the end of the book most of the historical detail of this book is accurate and a lot of research was involved. This makes for a believable and richly detailed tale of a spy much in the same vein as James Bond, if James Bond were alive in the Napoleonic Era. The hero, James Burke, even has the same initials and irresistible roguish, yet gentlemanly way with the women as Bond. 

I really enjoyed the camaraderie between Major Burke and his partner Sgt. William Brown immensely. They saved each other’s lives without a second thought however dangerous the rescue attempts they had to mount.
Their adversary, Fouché, the chief of the Parisian police force, was supposedly impossible to deceive, having eyes and ears everywhere, and yet with luck mostly on their side, Burke and Brown managed to pull the wool over those eyes repeatedly.

There were some humorous escapades which I found very welcome and a touch of romance between Burke and one of Empress Josephine’s attendants, Amelie.

To sum up this was a highly enjoyable spy story with believable detail and vivid descriptions of the world of Paris under the Emperor Napoleon, which allowed the reader to imagine the setting easily. I would recommend it to anyone who likes historical fiction – particularly involving a loveable roguish spy with luck on his side.

About the Author

Tom Williams used to write books for business. Now he writes novels set in the 19th century that are generally described as fiction but which are often more honest than the business books. (He writes contemporary fantasy as well, but that’s a dark part of his life, so you’ll have to explore that on your own – ideally with a friend and a protective amulet.)

His stories about James Burke (based on a real person) are exciting tales of high adventure and low cunning set around the Napoleonic Wars. The stories have given him the excuse to travel to Argentina, Egypt, and Spain and call it research.

Tom lives in London. His main interest is avoiding doing any honest work and this leaves him with time to ski, skate and dance tango, all of which (before covid) he thought he did quite well. In between he reads old books and spends far too much time looking at ancient weaponry.

Tom’s blogs appear regularly on his website, where you can also find details of all his books. You can follow him on Twitter as @TomCW99 or Facebook.

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