"Mr. Sabatini shows his quality by giving his personae enough characterisation to lift the performance from the early status as cheap thriller to the celestial place of romance." -- H.W. Boynton, Bookman, Oct 1917
Wellington was out to save Portugal, but there were traitors in high places secretly opposing his methods and playing the spy for the enemy. All depended on secrecy and unity of action. Suddenly the drunken blunder of a young English officer gives the plotters their chance to upset the delicate balance. Their influence causes the Portugese Council of Regency to demand that the culprit be made a scapegoat. He is at large, and it falls to his brother-in-law, Sir Terrence O'Moy, British adjutant-general at Lisbon, to promise that he shall be shot when taken. The disentangling of the coil of circumstances developing from this situation occupies the remainder of this romantic narrative.
published by The Riverside Press
Cambridge, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1917
As a devotee of the Peninsular War, I was intrigued to come across a Sabatini novel set in Portugal during the Napoleonic era. It wasn't quite the book I was expecting. For one thing, the plot is not as tight as most of the other Sabatini novels I have read and there are many missed opportunities in the storyline.
The book starts out with an inspired adventure featuring the character of Richard Butler. It is after this promising beginning that we discover that the book actually centers on Butler's brother-in-law, an irishman named Sir Terence O'Moy who is Wellington's Adjutant-General in Lisbon during the Peninsular War. O'Moy is forced to promise to put Richard in front of a firing squad as soon as he is found. This would be an interesting premise for a book with lots of political intrigue and agonizing about who one owes his first duty: one's family or one's country, but the book is more devoted to O'Moy's troubles with his jealousy over the company kept by his air-headed but beautiful wife, Una.
Una is not a very compelling character. She could be amusing, but Sabatini doesn't take advantage of that aspect. On the other hand, she doesn't seem to have enough brains or emotions to seem even slightly tragic. She's not really worth Sir Terrence's jealousy, as I got the impression she's not really bright enough to cheat on him even if she wanted to. She frets over her brother, Richard, but those thoughts don't seem to stay in her mind very long.
Una's cousin, Sylvia Armytage and Captain Tremayne, O'Moy's staff assistant, could have been the ones who saved the day but they don't get to. They could have been used to personify O'Moy's major emotional conflict: Sylvia representing family and Tremayne representing military duty. They could have been used as the emotional center of the novel. Instead they are built up as characters only to be shoved aside later. Like Richard Butler, who disappears from the narrative only to return some time later to whine about his situation.
The last lost opportunity is that no one really gets to change either their personal outlook or their fate. No one really pays for their sins. Everything is simply resolved by chance.
The Snare felt very disjointed and uneven. Parts of it were fun to read and made me keep turning the pages. Other sections seemed to lack the verve of Sabatini's better works. There was so much potential in the novel with the political maneuverings, the emotional conflict between duty to family and duty to nation, the different kinds of love demonstrated by the range characters, that I was even more disappointed in the novel's resolution.
If you have a review to submit, please send it to the webmaster, rimfire