Captain Alatriste is the story of a fictional 17th-century Spanish soldier who, after being wounded in battle during the Thirty Years' War, is forced to retire from the army. Now he lives the comparatively tame, though hardly quiet, life of a swordsman-for-hire in Madrid. Approached with an offer of work, Alatriste is told to go with another hired blade to an unfamiliar part of the city at midnight and wait. They are received by men who explain that they want Alatriste and his companion to ambush two travelers the following evening, stage a robbery, and give the men a fright. "No blood," they are told.
But then a third figure enters the room. He says the job requires some clarification: he increases the pay, and tells them that, instead, they must murder the two travelers. Then he reveals his identity: Emilio Bocanegra. It is a name synonymous with the Spanish Inquisition, the bloodiest name in Europe. This is a man whose requests cannot be denied.
But the following night, with the attack imminent, it becomes clear to Alatriste that these aren't ordinary travelers. And what happens next is only the first in a series of riveting twists and turns, with implications that will reverberate throughout the courts of Europe.
For anyone who loves the work of Arturo Pérez-Reverte, and those who have not yet discovered the delights of this extraordinary writer, Captain Alatriste is one of the most stylish, singular pleasures to come along in years.
Captain Alatriste is translated from Spanish by Margaret Sayers Peden.
©2005 Arturo Perez-Reverte (P)2005 Penguin Audio and Books on Tape, Inc.