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Gallow's Thief Mass Market Paperback – Apr 10 2003

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CDN$ 2.49 CDN$ 0.01 First Novel Award - 6 Canadian Novels Make the Shortlist

Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; Reprint edition (April 10 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060516283
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060516284
  • Product Dimensions: 10.6 x 2.4 x 17.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 159 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,733,913 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Fans of Cornwell's gallant up-from-the-ranks rifleman, Richard Sharpe, will welcome the upright Captain Rider Sandman, a veteran, like Sharpe, of Waterloo and the Peninsula campaign, in a mystery that highlights the horrors of capital punishment in Regency England. Compelled as a civilian to play cricket to earn a bare living in the wake of his disgraced father's financial ruin and suicide, Sandman can hardly refuse the Home Secretary's job offer of looking into the case of Charles Corday, a portrait painter convicted of murdering the Countess of Avebury. Since Corday's mother has the ear of Queen Charlotte, someone has to go through the motions of confirming Corday's guilt before he goes to the scaffold. Sandman, though, soon realizes that the man is innocent, and to prove it he has to locate a servant girl who was a likely witness to the countess's murder and has now disappeared. Sandman's investigation leads him to confront the corrupt and decadent members of London's Seraphim Club, but fortunately his reputation as a brave battlefield officer turns into allies any number of ex-soldier ruffians who might otherwise have given him trouble. The suspense mounts as Sandman must race the clock to prevent a miscarriage of justice at the nail-biting climax. An unresolved subplot involving our hero's ex-fiancEe, who still loves him despite his fall into poverty, suggests that Sandman will be back for further crime-solving adventures. Traditional historical mystery readers should cheer.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Disgraced by his father's suicide and impoverished by the debts that drove him to it, Capt. Rider Sandman, late of His Majesty's 52nd Regiment of Foot, has been forced to sell his commission to support his mother and sister. Desperate to earn a living but with no skills besides soldiering and cricket, he has come to London in search of a job. When the Home Secretary offers him temporary employment investigating a sensational murder, he accepts it as easy money. All he has to do is elicit a confession from the young artist accused of raping and murdering the Countess of Avebury during her portrait sitting. But when Sandman visits him in Newgate, the artist defends his innocence so vehemently that Sandman begins to have his doubts. Unwillingly, he is drawn into an investigation that not only risks his life but introduces him to the darkest secrets of several aristocratic families. As with his popular Richard Sharpe novels (Sharpe's Trafalgar) and his Arthurian trilogy, "The Warlord Chronicles," Cornwell is superb at weaving the ambience and issues of the day (this time Regency England) with a gripping plot and a memorable character. Readers will hope to see more. Cynthia Johnson, Cary Memorial Lib., Lexington, MA
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
RIDER SANDMAN WAS UP LATE THAT MONDAY MORNING because he had been paid seven guineas to play for Sir John Hart's eleven against a Sussex team, the winners to share a bonus of a hundred guineas, and Sandman had scored sixty-three runs in the first innings and thirty-two in the second, and those were respectable scores by any standard, but Sir John's eleven had still lost. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews

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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By A Customer on June 5 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
My first Cornwell outing was the incredible Grail Quest series - followed by the weak novel of Stonehenge. As an avid reader of historical fiction I try to be as patient and lenient as possible, because allowances have to be made in order to drive the story. Being of fair mind I read Gallow's Thief hoping that Rider Sandman would become another Thomas of Hookton (Grail Quest). Alas, disappointment set in quickly. First sign of trouble was the weak over-used plot, which the reader becomes aware of from the beginning: condemned man, may be innocent - find real killer before it's too late. Okay, big deal - there's a reason why we all like the classics. We shortly meet Rider, back from the war with France (Sharpe series territory) whom we learn is good at Cricket, so good that he makes a small amount of money playing for various teams. Cricket was mentioned so much that I was beginning to wonder if I was missing a crucial "cricket as analogy" connection that would have brought some dimension to this story. I fear not - Rider Sandman never grows as a character beyond the two dimensions of Cricket star and veteran.
Bottom Line: The story plods along from start to the predictable (groan) finish with really no excitement or surprises. I think Cornwall is a great writer and I'll continue to read is work, but the unevenness of his novels is frustrating.
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