My Review “The Most Bold and Daring Act of the Age: A Henry Doyle Novel” by: E. Thomas Behr
This novel is mostly set in Algiers in 1815, but the story introduces Henry Doyle as a young Mohawk Indian in America in 1779. In 1815, Doyle is living in the Sahara Desert, married to a Tuareg princess, Dihya. He learns that Napoleon has escaped captivity, has returned to France and has raised an army. Doyle doubts that Napoleon can be defeated by the Europeans and therefore fears the Emperor will eventually lead his army into North Africa. This story is mainly about what happens to Doyle after he decides to steal a shipment of gold bound for Napoleon through Algiers. You would think that since this is “A Henry Doyle Novel” that he would be the main character. Doyle is certainly important to the story, but two other characters were just as prominent – Doyle’s brother, Peter Kirkpatrick and Doyle’s wife, Dihya. Each of them plays heroic roles. I was especially impressed with Mr. Behr’s research on the people of the time and their places in history. He did a good job of including real historical characters such as Captain Stephen Decatur. I am sure we will be reading more E. Thomas Behr books.
There is a certain passion in the author’s writing, and a lot of historical knowledge, seen from an English point of view. This is a well written book, with intricate tones, about wars and espionage, carrying the reader from one continent to another, and one adventure after another. During the ride, we encounter Mohawks and Arabs, Bedouins and Tuaregs, French, and of course English soldiers and spies. A spy’s life is hard, and Doyle is no exception to the rule, but he is also an altruist man, this time an interesting intrusion in the obscure war between spies. As any hero, Doyle is fighting for the good side, depending, of course which side you ask about it.
We have also Princess Dihya, Doyle’s wife, a descendant of the legendary warrior queen Tin Hinan, a fourth century Tuareg Matriarch. I wished that the author would explore more the fascinating personality of the ancient Queen, but Dihya is for sure a strong royal offspring over centuries, and a woman above the condition of her time.
The Most Bold and Daring Act of the Age is a good read, and the author has the required talent to blend together history and imagination.
(alt. title for this review - Henry… Henry… Henry, why did you not listen to your wife?)
At age 55, Henry Doyle hears of a gold shipment that will be making its way across the desert near him and heading to the coffers of a newly escaped Napoleon. He believes he is the only one equipped to help that gold detour to the British. His wife thinks otherwise.
Still, off he goes on his adventures with an old adversary on his tail, whom he manages to evade several times quite miraculously. I’m not giving anything away here (as it’s in the book’s blurb) but he is captured (disappointingly, quite easily) and is subsequently tortured. Luckily for Henry, his Native American upbringing stands him in good stead to withstand the torture, and his captor bores of him and locks him away. Thus follows a thought process of self-reflection and contemplation, which in my humble opinion is Henry’s most interesting part in this book. Particularly here, but throughout the book, I enjoyed the use of other languages, phrases and sayings, that were not always translated into English, nor needed to be.
If I sound a little ambivalent about Henry’s fate, it’s because I had trouble connecting with his character and hence my recommendation at the outset to read the first Henry Doyle book, ‘Blood Brothers’, first. I haven’t read it, but given my enjoyment of other characters in this book, especially Henry’s half-brother – Peter, I imagine I would have more investment in Henry if I had.
Peter’s adventures on the high seas were, for me, the saving grace of this book. Peter was shown to be an excellent and intelligent man, he had some interesting relationships with several characters he meets on the way, and the action scenes were well described. The handy diagrams of ships movements during battles certainly helped a landlubber such as myself.
The disappointing part of the book (and the only reason I give it 4, not 5 stars) was the portrayal of the women. Only 3 women were mentioned by name or had any dialog, and you neither saw nor heard of them for most of the book. In almost all scenes they were either in sexual situations or nursing the men. In only two scenes did two of the women interact with each other. Of course in those times, women were largely seen by men as sex objects, mothers and care givers, but for today’s entertainment, perhaps the fiction side of historical fiction could stretch that narrow viewpoint. Only Dihya’s character had more to do in a couple of scenes, but that was portrayed as more physical strength than anything else. The same caveat may apply to her as to Henry, that you may gain a greater insight into her character if you read the first book.
So, if your bent runs toward a man’s adventure, with some gruesome violence, plenty of politics, back-stabbing and heroics. This is a well written and well researched, exciting story that will keep your attention.
Behr’s sequel to “Blood Brothers” sparkles with historical accuracy and insights into the cultural clashes of Algiers in the early 1800’s that still bedevil us today. Engaging heroes, terrifying tyrants and slimy spies grip the reader as the saga swiftly moves from desert caravan to square riggers to lush cushions in a Tuareg tent. A tautly woven tale of larceny, loyalty and love. A great read masterfully written.
Review from Publisher’s Weekly Book Life Prize Critique
"This novel is a rip-roaring adventure: well plotted, well-paced, and full of action that will keep readers turning pages.
"The book is well researched and boasts clear, skillfully crafted, sometimes philosophical, and thoroughly enjoyable prose. This is a historical adventure in the tradition of Patrick O’Brian that is nonetheless fresh and original. The characters are vivid, consistent, and varied. Female characters are as multi-dimensional as their male counterparts. Character interactions are authentic and interesting. A fast-paced, skillfully told, and thoughtful adventure. Fans of Patrick O’Brian will be delighted."
* * * * * Review from Cindy Vallar, Pirates and Privateers Magazine
"Intrigue, greed, betrayal, and love are intricately interwoven into this sweeping historical novel. This long-awaited sequel to Blood Brothers takes readers from Algiers and France to the woodlands of the Iroquois Confederacy and the rebuilding of Washington, DC. There are also several sea battles, including an astounding confrontation with a legendary Barbary corsair.
"The intricacy of the web Behr spins, the profound depth of his characters, and his ability to meld people from history with imaginary ones are the hallmark of this book and the series. Faith and philosophy also play important roles in Henry’s singular life, and Behr ably shows how different beliefs can respectfully intersect and peacefully co-exist. This thought-provoking novel leaves an indelible mark that lasts long after the story concludes."
WOW!!! What a great continuance of the Henry Doyle saga. And to have Stephen Decatur give his review of the mission with the same accolade used for his bold and daring act - just fantastic. I won't give away any details, but this is a classic page turner and I literally could not put it down. Plus, there are plenty of Marines to make it even more interesting. Thomas Behr shows his command of the details that could not be overlooked be anyone acquainted with this period and place in history. I highly recommend this book, its predecessor and the next book in the series. May there be many more!!
Kevin O'Brien Not as lean, not as mean, but still a Marine....
“The Most Bold and Daring Act of the Age: A Henry Doyle Novel” is a book written by E. Thomas Behr, writer and former consultant to multinational corporations in Latin America, Europe, Africa and the Middle east. After reading the book I understood why it has a five star qualification. The writing style is clear and the story flows. The plot is interesting and attractive. Once I started reading I could not put the book down. The characters as well as the plot is well described which helps to the development of the story. I have enjoyed reading The Most Bold and Daring Act of the Age and I would certainly recommend reading it to everybody. I am sure you will all enjoyed reading it as much as I did.