MAD BOY - An Account of Henry Phipps In The War Of 1812 by Nick Arvin (Europa Editions, £11.99)

IT is 1812 when, in the opening pages of this novel, we are introduced to Henry Phipps having to rush to his mother with bad news regarding Franklin, Henry’s elder brother.

But we are in an America at war with the English and Henry’s mother soon dies leaving her last wish with Henry; she wants to be buried at sea with all her family around her.

This seems like an impossible task with Henry’s father held in debtors’ prison in Baltimore and Franklin supposedly dead after facing a firing squad for deserting the Army, though not believed by Henry.

This tale gives us an exciting, humorous and sometimes dark account of Henry trying to achieve his task while avoiding cannon fire, brigands, looters, clashing armies and a burning city.

The author leaves you gasping for breath at the excitement taking place within a beautifully understanding of a chaotic, mostly forgotten war.

On his journey Henry meets up with renegade slaves, has to take care of a baby and its mother, and meets up with his ruthless next-door neighbour that adds yet another heavy burden on young Henry.

This is a brilliant, unique writing voice that Europa Editions have a gift of finding.