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    Review of THE DAMASCENED BLADE by Barbara Cleverly (see her website)


    Carroll & Graf, Publishers, 2003

    Between the world wars, peace is uneasy on the border between British India and Afghanistan. When a tribal group arrives at a British fort to escort a British doctor into Afghanistan, it looks like a chance for peace. By chance, a British Lord, an American millionairess, a London Detective, a British Air Force officer, and an Indian civil servant are also in the fort when, disaster, the leader of the escort is found dead. The doctor is quick to proclaim an accident, but detective Joe Sandilands doesn't believe it--the evidence is just a bit off. If it wasn't an accident, though, the death might just be what is required to set off an uprising within the tribal areas of what is now Pakistan--an uprising that overstretched Britain can ill afford.

    Sandilands, along with young millionairess Lily Coblenz, find themselves with the uncomfortable duty of discovering the truth, even if that truth might mean war. When the dead officer's successor challenges the official verdict, Lily finds herself a captive of the tribes and Joe must go undercover to discover the truth. But the real truth is something that goes back for years in a never-ending cycle of death and revenge that tears at the tribal border between India and Afghanistan.

    Author Barbara Cleverly manages a strong and sympthetic story of the declining years of the British Empire where peace hangs in the balance and where honor and truth are easy sacrifices for expediency. Both Sandilands and Coblenz are sympathetically drawn and attractive characters with just a hint of sexual chemistry between them. But the strength of the story comes from Cleverly's descriptions of a lost India and the balance she brings to her view of the cycle of violence.

    This is the first book I've read by Barbara Cleverly, but it certainly won't be the last. It is a well written and enjoyable historical treat.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 9/09/04

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