Written by a sister team, Mary and Liz Clare, who write under the name of Frances Hunter, this meticulously researched book is set in a United States where Spain still owns a great deal of the south western territory. Citizen Genet, diplomat and revolutionary fresh from the bloodbath of France, arrives in Philadelphia in 1793 to convince George Washington that he must fund an expedition to claim Louisiana from the Spanish and expand the territories of the United States, to the benefit of France of course.
Genet begins his search for soldiers by blackmailing Andre Michaux, a fellow Frenchman and botanist to act as his spy, and impatient with what he regards as Washington’s anti-revolutionary feelings, he finds an ally in Thomas Jefferson, who warns him that if his mission fails, the US Government will deny all knowledge of their endorsement. Nothing changes much does it?
George Rogers Clark, the washed-up hero of the Revolution, is the commander of Genet’s renegade force, and General “Mad Anthony” Wayne, who discovers his enemies are a little too close for comfort. There are also two young soldiers; Meriwether Lewis, who comes through unscathed from a courts martial, and William Clark, who dreams of claiming the Western territory for the United States. Both men are faced with the awful truth that they are the instruments of those who want to destroy it.
I am unfamiliar with this early US history, so there was a lot to take in regarding the politics and the disparate sides fighting for supremacy. [Not to mention sorting out the two Clarks]. This novel is intricate, detailed and written with a masterly command of the historically famous partnership between Lewis and Clark, showing and yet not condemning both their strengths and fatal flaws.
An exciting and colourful read about a very raw time in America's history.