THE GHOST OF WATERLOO is the second Nicodemus Dunne book, set in 1800's Sydney in the earliest days of the Colony. Reading the first in the series - DEATH AND THE RUNNING PATTERER will give you the complete background to Dunne - how he came to Sydney, how he came to be earning his way as a Running Patterer. It also explains why his background as a London policeman would lead Governor Darling to call for his assistance when a major robbery and spate of murders proves not just difficult to solve, but potentially embarrassing for the Colony leaders. Having said that, it would be possible to pick up THE GHOST OF WATERLOO first if you need to - this book includes enough hints to give you an idea of the background, although there's no reason why you shouldn't also read the earlier book if you've not yet had the pleasure.
At the opening of the book Adair has included a cast of characters with a short bio, and, most importantly, a flag for those who are fictitious and therefore who were real people. This should help readers a little in understanding that ultimately this is fiction set in a very real setting. Somehow this combination of the real and the fictitious, combined with the story that is built in the book, all contribute to making a connection between 1828 Sydney and Napoleon Bonaparte believable. Mind you, I didn't ever feel the need to sit down and check all the possible timelines - frankly, I found the book too engaging and too convincing to wonder too much about the historical veracity. The possibility was tantalising.
Dunne is the central focus of these books, but there is a good supporting cast of characters - including a few romance elements which are nicely handled. The reality of investigating a series of crimes in the 1800's is covered well - the small society in which the crimes are committed works nicely. There is some humour throughout the book, and there is some action that on one hand you'd dearly like to think happened, even though a part of you knows perfectly well it probably didn't.
It does need to be remembered that this is fiction in a factual setting, and that's a scenario that can put off some readers. The good thing about these books is there is no suggestion whatsoever that any of the events covered are likely to be history changing. Somehow the idea that the nefarious goings on in both of Adair's books could have happened and the progress of the Colony of NSW would press on regardless works. The setting is also realistically and very convincingly drawn in both books. You get an almost visual feel for the way that early Sydney looked, smelt, sounded and felt for the residents. DEATH AND THE RUNNING PATTERER was a terrific debut of an interesting, engaging and extremely believable character in Nicodemus Dunne and THE GHOST OF WATERLOO carries on with his life, and the world around him with equal aplomb.