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Originally published Friday, May 10, 2013 at 5:31 AM

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‘The Barbed Crown’: head to head with Napoleon

Anacortes author William Dietrich’s new Ethan Gage adventure, “The Barbed Crown,” pits the swashbuckling hero against his former employer, Napoleon. Dietrich appears Wednesday, May 15, at Seattle Mystery Bookshop and Third Place Books.

Special to The Seattle Times

Author appearance

William Dietrich

The author of “The Barbed Crown” will appear at these area locations:

•At 7 p.m. Friday, May 10, Elliott Bay Book Co., 1521 10th Ave., Seattle; free (206-624-6600 or

•At noon Wednesday, Seattle Mystery Bookshop, 117 Cherry St., Seattle; free (206-587-5737 or

•At 7 p.m. Wednesday, Third Place Books, 17171 Bothell Way N.E., Lake Forest Park; free (206-366-3333 or

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That Ethan Gage — when he buckles a swash, it stays buckled.

Fans of two-fisted Napoleonic-era action will rejoice in Anacortes author William Dietrich’s “The Barbed Crown” (Harper, 368 pp., $26.99), the sixth in his cheeky series about Gage, an American adventurer of that time.

Raffish Gage keeps saying that he doesn’t seek trouble — it seeks him. Whatever — our man is the Zelig of his day, showing up at key moments as the improbable instrument of turning points in history and encountering a raft of real historical figures.

Previous books have recounted Gage’s escapades in the service of Napoleon, on missions ranging from investigating the mysteries of the pyramids to hunting down a talisman linked to Norse mythology, the Knights Templar and the American Midwest (It’s complicated.)

But things have recently soured between Gage and Napoleon — in a previous book, the emperor saw fit to kidnap Gage’s exotic and brilliant wife, Astiza, and their son, Harry. Now, with wife and son released and family reunited, Ethan’s bent on revenge.

His scheme involves intrigue in the French court (giving Dietrich a chance to get in some atmospheric writing about Paris) and the prospect of sabotaging Napoleon’s coronation with the aid of a holy relic (the “barbed crown” of the title).

When the plot fails and Napoleon is crowned, Ethan and Astiza head for England and join a motley crew bent on stopping the Frenchman’s invasion of that nation.

This book is not as full of ripping action as those about Gage’s previous exploits. Dietrich, a former Seattle Times reporter, has a lot to say about the history of Gage’s time; it’s fascinating, but it does slow things down. No matter; Gage’s roguish charm is in full bloom, and “The Barbed Crown” is still a page-turning delight.

Adam Woog’s column on crime and mystery fiction appears on the second Sunday of the month in The Seattle Times.

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