A Finalist for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History
“A clever and imaginative tale.” —Steve Berry, New York Times bestselling author
A thought-provoking novel that imagines what would have happened if the British had succeeded in kidnapping General George Washington.
British special agent Jeremiah Black, an officer of the King’s Guard, lands on a lonely beach in the wee hours of the morning in late November 1780. The revolution is in full swing but has become deadlocked. Black is here to change all that.
His mission, aided by Loyalists, is to kidnap George Washington and spirit him back to London aboard the HMS Peregrine, a British sloop of war that is waiting closely offshore. Once he lands, though, the “aid by Loyalists” proves problematic because some would prefer just to kill the general outright. Black manages—just—to get Washington aboard the Peregrine, which sails away.
Upon their arrival in London, Washington is imprisoned in the Tower to await trial on charges of high treason. England’s most famous barristers seek to represent him but he insists on using an American. He chooses Abraham Hobhouse, an American-born barrister with an English wife—a man who doesn’t really need the work and thinks the “career-building” case will be easily resolved through a settlement of the revolution and Washington’s release. But as greater political and military forces swirl around them and peace seems ever more distant, Hobhouse finds that he is the only thing keeping Washington from the hangman’s noose.
Drawing inspiration from a rumored kidnapping plot hatched in 1776 by a member of Washington’s own Commander-in-Chief Guard, Charles Rosenberg has written a compelling novel that envisions what would take place if the leader of America’s fledgling rebellion were taken from the nation at the height of the war, imperiling any chance of victory.
The latest from attorney Rosenberg (Write to Die) is a fascinating novel that, as usual, showcases his legal expertise, this time in a historical, speculative context. In 1780, Britain is nearly bankrupt from its long war with its former colonies. Its shrewd prime minister, Frederick North, devises a secret plan he hopes will finally force the conflict to a close: the arrest for treason of George Washington, commander-in-chief of the American army and one of the most famous men in the world. The undercover operative he selects, Jeremiah Black, evades danger long enough to capture Washington at his New Jersey headquarters and transport him to the Tower of London. But when Washington refuses to allow his life to be used as a bargaining chip, North's gamble yields not a negotiated peace but a high-stakes trial featuring a redoubtable defendant and a witness appearance by Benedict Arnold. Unlike classics such as The Man in the High Castle, this alternate history doesn't speculate on how its re-imagined Washington might have altered America's future. Rosenberg interweaves legal and political nuances with a suspenseful plot, juxtaposing well-drawn historical figures with appealing inventions, resulting in a thoughtful novel.