Gallows Thief Hardcover – Oct 1 2001
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By setting Gallows Thief in the Regency period, Bernard Cornwell is able to use his customary skills of characterisation and razor-sharp plotting against a vividly realised new backdrop.
It is Britain in the 1820s. After the wars with France, with unemployment high and soldiers paid off, the government lives in mortal fear of social unrest. The solution is draconian punishment for any crime, and thousands die on the gallows. But despite this, it was possible to petition the King and instigate an investigation. Cornwell's new hero Robert Hawke is a hero of Waterloo struggling to repay his family debts when he becomes involved in the case of a man waiting to be hanged in Newgate prison. Given the job by the Home Secretary of investigating the man's guilt or innocence, Hawke finds himself knee-deep in labyrinthine plots involving bribes, sedition and a massive conspiracy of silence. As this suggests, the contemporary parallels are never far away.
The world Cornwell has conjured for us is as richly drawn as any in his distinguished career: gentlemen's clubs and taverns, haughty aristocrats, fashionable painters and their mistresses, and professional cut-throats; all this creates a heady melange that is just as impressive as anything in Cornwell's Sharpe series. --Barry Forshaw
'What a very fine writer Mr Cornwell has become.' -- The EconomistSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
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... Read morePublished on Nov. 16 2003 by Tim Smith
I truly enjoyed this book. If you like historical fiction - get this book! Mr. Cornwell really makes history come alive with the story of the Newgate prison, the politics and... Read morePublished on June 6 2003
This is the first Cornwell book I have read. It was excellent. If you like historical fiction you will be enthralled. Read morePublished on June 3 2003 by Moving On
The Gallows Thief is enriched by excellent period research but not overwhelmed by it. Bernard Cornwell is a brilliant writer who knows how to weave research throughout his... Read morePublished on March 30 2003 by Jo Manning
Really I think this one is an alternative subject on wich he moves with easyness and masterfully knowledge, and the hero is very different from Sharpe (but less cryptical... Read morePublished on March 24 2003 by ADB
This is much more than a historical whodonit. Sandman, the hero, has just suffered a reverse of fortune when the story begins: his father has committed suicide because he was... Read morePublished on Feb. 25 2003 by ex nihilo