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Gallows Thief Hardcover – Jan 1 2002


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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; American First edition (2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060082739
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060082734
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15.7 x 2.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 522 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,953,954 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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First Sentence
SIR HENRY FORREST, banker and alderman of the City of London, almost gagged when he entered the Press Yard, for the smell was terrible, worse than the reek of the sewer outflows where the Fleet Ditch oozed into the Thames. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Cornwell simply cannot be outdone in the historical adventure genre. While thoroughly describing the nature of the times with encyclopedic detail, we are never bogged down in dry facts: we can smell the noxious fumes of Newgate Prison, feel the disgrace heaped upon Sandman over his father's suicide and subsequent family downfall, worry over the skewed justice system that hangs for both petty thievery and grisly murder. We are aided in knowing the customs and colloquialisms of the middle and lower classes in that they are equally foreign to Sandman; we learn right along with him.
If you are a Sharpe fan, don't expect nail-biting, in-your-face battles and sieges. While our hero, Rider Sandman, resides in the same era, he is no comparison to Sharpe in personality or vocation; this is strictly a murder mystery. Although no real clues per se, the journey to finding the killer is nonetheless enjoyable, both plot and characters full-fledged and engaging. This story is more about how Sandman deals with his new station in society, the varying strata of society, and the nature of people he meets and befriends throughout than it is about 'who done it'. I would have liked to have seen more of the mysterious Jack "Robin" Hood, but Sandman's other allies make for a disparate, likable enough crowd.
My one complaint is the anti-climatic ending. The suspense of the innocent's imminent death was irritatingly interrupted by hangman's procedures that had already been fully and adequately described in the beginning. The constant back and forth between the final "chase scene" and the hanging ruined the tension; you'd miss nothing if you skipped over the prison scenes at the end to get to the good stuff.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Better known for his Richard Sharpe series, Cornwell, nevertheless, scores big with Gallow's Thief. Historical fiction, it is set in London, two years after Waterloo. It has all the usual ingredients of a sucessful historical (or detective, or mystery) novel - action, intrique, murder, sex, mystery. While the book does tend to formula in it's detective work (The backhanded compliment to Sherlock Holmes is appreciated.), all that is overcome by a wonderful cast of characters.
Captain Rider Sandman is honorable, brave, consentious and, of course, poor as a church mouse. In order to keep body and soul together, he accepts the job of Inspector. In this case, he is given the uneviable task of determining the guilt or innocence of an already condemned man.
Sandman's allies are a disparate group. Sally Hood, actress and sometime model for various painters, is Sandman's tutor in the slang and life of London's slums. Her want-to-be beau and eventually Sandman's strong right arm is the very capable Sergent Berrigan. Her elusive and mysterious brother is Jack a.k.a. Robin Hood, a notorious Highwayman. The club-footed Lord Alexander is his true, if somewhat flighty friend. Finally, there is Eleanor, Sandman's somtime finace. To add a bit more spice, Eleanor and Sandman are still desparately in love dispite her mother's objections.
The opposition is rich, arrogant, and devoid of all scruples or any sense of honor. Members of the Seraphim Club consider themselves too rich or too well born to be subject to the law.
The chase for the truth careens through the upper crust of English society, the slums of London and the normally bucolic English countryside. It is a wild and intriguing ride.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I highly recommend this intelligent and exciting novel set in Regency England. Bernard Cornwell has given us an insolvent war hero, who also is an outstanding cricket player, recruited (on request of the queen) to determine if a man condemned to die is actually guilty of murder. The opening chapter of the book takes the reader to a hanging and follows it up with a breakfast of kidneys -- a most memorable start for this breakneck paced mystery. Rider Sandman is a very likeable hero, ethical in the extreme, who will not rest until he finds out who indeed murdered the lightskirted wife of an English nobleman. In the process, he recruits a former soldier, an opera girl and her highwayman brother, as well as friends who knew him before his father disgraced the family name and lost the family fortune. Along the way, he has to deal with conflicted feelings about his former love, whose parents forced the young lady in question to break off her engagment to Sandman when his father committed suicide. This book takes the reader from the city of London to the countryside and back again, with some side trips to the cricket field. According to the author's website, there are many fans who hope for a sequel to "Gallows Thief," however Mr Cornwell is not committing himself at this time. We live in hope!
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Bernard Cornwell's novels are always so much fun to read! Every book he writes makes the reader a time traveller in which the setting, characterization, dialogue, social mores and culture are flawlessly presented within an absorbing plot.
In THE GALLOWS THIEF, the reader witnesses the brutality, degradation, and fallibility of Britain's capital punishment statutes in the 19th century. Punishment is swift but there is also the possibility of the inevitable, that an innocent man will be hanged. The questions and problems that Cornwell presents in this entertaining, yet thought-provoking story are similar to modern day arguments against capital punishment. However Cornwell has created a drama with interesting characters and realistic dialogue that educates while it entertains.
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