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Review: The Queen’s Tiger by Peter Watt

The Queen’s Tiger 
Peter Watt
Pan Macmillan AUS
2019, 353p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Peter Watt brings to the fore all the passion, adventure and white-knuckle battle scenes that made his beloved Duffy and Macintosh novels so popular.

It is 1857. Colonial India is a simmering volcano of nationalism about to erupt. Army surgeon Peter Campbell and his wife Alice, in India on their honeymoon, have no idea that they are about to be swept up in the chaos.

Ian Steele, known to all as Captain Samuel Forbes, is fighting for Queen and country in Persia. A world away, the real Samuel Forbes is planning to return to London – with potentially disastrous consequences for Samuel and Ian both.

Then Ian is posted to India, but not before a brief return to England and a reunion with the woman he loves. In India he renews his friendship with Peter Campbell, and discovers that Alice has taken on a most unlikely role. Together they face the enemy and the terrible deprivations and savagery of war – and then Ian receives news from London that crushes all his hopes…

This is the second in a series revolving around colonial blacksmith Ian Steele and his pretending to be Samuel Forbes in Her Majesty’s army so that the real Samuel Forbes can inherit his share of a family estate. Serving was Ian’s dream and pretending to be Samuel has opened up opportunities for him that he would never have been able to take advantage of otherwise.

Okay, here’s the first rule to pulling off a deception: the less people that know, the better. Ideally it should’ve been kept to Ian, the real Samuel and about 2 others that knew for necessity’s stake. Then Ian ran into someone he knew from Australia in the army, so he knew as well but swore to secrecy, the two of them forging an unlikely friendship.

Now?

Now pretty much everyone knows *shrug*

There have always been people that suspect, including Samuel’s older brother Charles, who seeks to rid the world of Samuel so that he may inherit the entire family estate himself. Charles is greedy and quite a despicable character and he’s had his suspicions of Ian from the start. It doesn’t help when Samuel (the real one) decides that he must return to England for personal reasons, instead of staying in America, where he’s supposed to be living his life. As soon as he’s in England he begins running into people who have either met him previously or are aware of his family and considering Ian, pretending to be Samuel, is serving overseas, he shouldn’t be seen anywhere in England.

I spent a large portion of this book wanting to smack Samuel (the real one) for his blindness and stupidity. He came up with this idea now he keeps doing things that put it in jeopardy and threaten Ian’s life even more than it was already in danger! Despite the fact that five minutes after he arrives he runs into someone that knows him, he doesn’t get on the first ship back to America and get the heck out of there. No, he keeps travelling around England visiting people and graves and basically being seen in a whole bunch of places where he shouldn’t be, drawing even more suspicion and it is sort of ridiculous. I know London upper society is really quite insular but honestly, Samuel’s steadfast refusal to do the sensible thing and get the heck out of there before everything goes pear shaped was really quite frustrating.

Meanwhile Ian is off overseas pretending to be Samuel, fighting Persians and later Indians and basically running into people who now know that he’s not the real Samuel. He’s also fallen in love again, despite the fact that he’s still trying to find out what happened to the last woman he fell in love with. Ian is proving to be an excellent solider and leader, he cares for his men and treats them as his equals even though under his assumed identity, they are considered beneath him. He has earned their respect and even though they still call him the Queen’s Colonial, it’s with affection rather than derision. His commanding officer is still full of resentment, also determined to bring him down but to his eternal frustration, Ian keeps surviving seemingly impossible predicaments.

There’s still something like seven years that Ian has to serve pretending to be Samuel and with the amount of people that know now, it just seems impossible that this is something he’s going to be able to successfully complete. The amount of people that know just keeps increasing and Charles Forbes, the brother of the real Samuel is so determined to prove that Ian is an imposter and there’s something strange going on that he’s willing to stop at nothing to secure the information that he requires. Charles is an easily hated villain, he’s so hypocritical – determined to see Ian punished for his crime of being a fraud, yet his own activities would see him in far more trouble. Their father is also detestable but less so than Charles, who really does assume the bulk of the resentment towards Samuel/Ian and his greed in wanting all of the family estate to himself, despite the fact it could seemingly adequately support many people, is the flimsiest of motives. It’s impossible not to want Charles to pay for what he has done and even though Ian and Samuel are doing the wrong thing….they aren’t actually harming anyone by doing what they are doing.

There are some other plots in here, I probably could’ve done without Peter and Alice in India, especially with the stuff concerning Peter’s brother. There’s also that thing where the opinions and thoughts of the time are pretty abhorrent for today, so Alice is sort of a Lone Ranger in having different and more modern thoughts. I enjoyed the reappearance of the Russian and the consequences of that as well. All in all, things are kind of precarious for a long time for both Ian and the real Samuel, so I am actually quite looking forward to seeing what happens next.

7/10

Book #200 of 2019

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