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The swashbuckling spirit of Rafael Sabatini lives on in Perez-Reverte's fifth installment to the adventures of the 17th-century Spanish swordsman, Capt. Diego Alariste. The novel finds Diego back in Madrid, where even the slightest personal affront can lead to a clash of blades. Accompanied, as usual, by his loyal young servant, Iñigo Balboa Aguirre, and his friend, the poet and playwright Francisco de Quevedo, Diego learns that both he and King Philip IV are rivals for the attentions of the married actress Maria de Costa, who has many other suitors lined up at her dressing room door. Not even a death threat can scare off the ardent captain, who becomes a pawn in an old enemy's dastardly plot to assassinate the king. Richly atmospheric and alive with the sights, sounds and smells of old Madrid, this tale of derring-do is old-fashioned fun. It's elegantly written and filled with thrilling swordplay and hairbreadth escapes-escapist books don't get much better than this. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.