The British Are Coming requires 550 densely packed pages to cover only the first two years of the war. The author, a prizewinning American military historian, is never afraid to digress; he interrupts meticulous battle narratives with detours about the treatment of smallpox, or about George Washington’s fondness for Spanish fly, an aphrodisiac made from crushed beetles. This is not a book for anyone in a hurry. Atkinson takes his time, but there’s delight in all that detail... The war lasted 3,059 days. It involved more than 1,300 hostile actions and 241 naval engagements. This book covers only the period from the first shots at Lexington in April 1775 to the invigorating American success at Princeton in January 1777. After 18 months of command, Washington had learnt that “war was rarely linear, preferring a path of fits and starts, ups and downs, triumphs and cataclysms”. This book is the first step down that path; we are told that this is volume one of a planned trilogy. Atkinson will be a superb guide through the terrible years of killing ahead.