Keane's Company by Iain Gale

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Keane's Company by Iain Gale

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sam Tyler
Reviewed by Sam Tyler
Summary: James Keane is a blessed man. Most soldiers accused of cheating at cards and killing an officer during a duel would have been thrown out of the army at best, hung at worst. However, Keane is given the task of creating a company out of a group of ne'er do wells and going behind enemy lines. A dangerous job that may just have made the gallows the better option.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: January 2014
Publisher: Heron Books
ISBN: 9781782064527

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There is one fictionalised character that straddles recent historic fiction set during the Napoleonic Wars like a Colossus and that man is Bernard Cornwell’s Richard Sharpe. To take on this level of success is no easy task, but with Sharpe books no longer being released, there is room for a new man. Is that man James Keane, star of Iain Gale’s ‘Keane’s Company’? This is a book that forgoes some of the deeper literary elements in favour of action and thrills.

Keane is tasked with creating a gallery of rogues and going behind enemy lines. Some would call them spies, but they like to be known as scouts. Whilst on the job of finding and befriending the Spanish resistance, Keane and company hear of a stash of silver left behind by the French. It could be used to pay the British troops, but would anyone notice a little going missing on the way?

The blurb to Iain Gale’s ‘Keane’s Company’ would have you thinking it was ‘The Dirty Dozen’ set during the Napoleonic Wars. After all the group is handpicked from the army jail. However, there is far more honour amongst these supposed thieves, cheats and cutthroats than first meets the eye. They are closer in type to the ‘The Magnificent Seven’. It’s settled then, the men of ‘Keane’s Company’ are the Iberian Seven!

‘Keane’s Company’ is a historic fiction novel that is heavy on the action and at times is a little too simple in places. The narrative flows too cleanly to begin with, Keane seemingly stumbling across the exact type of experts he would need for the ultimate team. However, this naivety in tone is easy to forgive as it is all part of the Boy’s Own feel of things. A group of new friends setting out on an adventure; like an Enid Blyton book with more gore and less dog.

It is during some of the more violent and tense sections of ‘Company’ that the book is at his best. There are few authors who have been able to capture the mayhem and heart thumping tension of a Napoleonic battlefield as well as Cornwell, but Gale has achieved it. The novel is peppered with action sequences that differ in scale, if you feel that the story may be starting to slow, fear not as another gun fight will be just around the corner. Perhaps this is the reason then that it feels as if it ends a little too quickly. Gale hints at plenty more adventures for his characters, but the story seems to end abruptly with no real reason for it stopping at that particular point.

It is the slightly empty headedness of ‘Company’ that lets it down on two or three occasions. The instrumental moments seem to come a little too easily for Keane and you don’t think he has to work for them in a realistic way. All the top brass are enamoured with this lovable rogue, but I for one did not warm to him enough in this, his first adventure. A womaniser, cheat and gambler, Keane is the type of anti-hero not easy to pull off. His charisma is meant to pull him through, but I think Gale played the womaniser card a little too heavily; Keane almost has a pathological lust for one female character and a derisory opinion of the rest of the female population. Not the type of chap I would like to play cricket with wot wot!

Despite Keane not being the easiest character to support, the action makes up for it. There are some great scenes of fighting that will readily please fans of the ‘Sharpe’ novels. There may not quite be the same level of suitably to the characters (who would have thought I would ever say that about Richard Sharpe), but the book is a great read for fans of historic adventure.

If this book appeals then you might also enjoy:

1356 by Bernard Cornwell

Wars of the Roses: Stormbird (Wars of the Roses 1) by Conn Iggulden

Buy Keane's Company by Iain Gale at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Keane's Company by Iain Gale at

Buy Keane's Company by Iain Gale at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Keane's Company by Iain Gale at


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