Our protagonist, former Royal Marine Ric Ross, is on an extended holiday/attempt to escape his past on Corsica when he ends up getting involved with a beautiful local woman and the tangle politics of the land. Ross is a curiously passive hero. He lets everyone take the lead, reacting to situations they put him in. He's not a bad character, per se. But reading about him made me wonder if the real story was happening somewhere else. I wonder what this story would have been like if Crawley had written this story from Manou Pietri's perspective, instead of from the perspective of her somewhat hapless boyfriend.
Crawley's book is full of short chapters, which makes the book feel like it's flying by. But the pacing of the plot itself is very slow until the second half. In the first half, Ric meets the dramatis personae. He meets a creepily charming Armenian who calls himself Kamo Petrossian, then is warned away from his new acquaintance by a corpulent policeman. Meanwhile, Ric appears to be suffering from what might be Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or a Corsican version of magic. Crawley infuses the entire book with local character and flavor. This infusion was one of the reasons I stayed with the book through its doldrums.
In the second half, all the pawns are in position and Crawley starts to bring them together from their disparate locations. The young book Ric found wandering in the woods is Manou's son. The Armenian is after Manou's successful camping business. Ric wants to be a hero for her, but she pushes him away. Even if she hadn't been raised by men who prefer to take matters into their own hands, Manou has a strong will; she doesn't want to be rescued. By the end of the book, I had to wonder if she wouldn't have managed just fine on her own.
This is not a great book. It's overwritten. There's a lot of detail that could had been slashed, especially in the first half. A lot of the expositional dialog should have been ripped out. But I enjoyed Mazzeri's originality. There are few other books I know of--outside of biographies of Napoleon--that talk about Corsica. The island has a fascinating blending of its various invaders in the religion, culture, and food. Ric was a nice enough bloke. Manou was the real stand out of this book. If you have the patience to see Mazzeri through to the end, the finale is fairly engrossing with all its crosses and double crosses.