Don't click the ready bag or you'll be doing the Newgate Morris at the Kings Head Inn, so fake away off, culley.
Bernard Cornwell is, I must confess, one of my all-time favorite authors of historical fiction. It is such a rare find, an author who writes well, creates exceptional atmosphere and characters and actually gets his history right....Author of the Sharpe series (a terrific long-running series set in the Napoleonic era), Cornwell has, in the last few years, branched out into other periods, bring the same quality and detail to such subjects as the Hundred Years War (Harlequin ( published in the U.S as The Archer's Tale), Vagabond, Heretic (coming out late in 2003)) and the legend of Arthur (The Winter King, The Enemy of God, Excaliber). Reviews for each of the above will be posted at a later date (I'm not done Vagabond yet...).
Gallows Thief is a Regency-era mystery, set in London in 1817, with a London rich in detail, style and the inescapable harsh reality of daily life providing the colorful backdrop. Captain Rider Sandman, ex-soldier, veteran of Waterloo, a gentleman now in penury, takes on the role of Investigator for the Home Secretary, looking into the conviction of a London portrait painter, guilty of murdering the Countess of Avebury and sentanced to hang ("to dance on Newgate's stage") in seven days. Moving from the secret clubs of London's seedier nobility, from the bustle of the "flash" taverns to the flat green of the cricket field, Gallow Thief is remarkably good at evoking the feel and life the era, coupled with some interesting characters from all walks of life. It also offers a memorable lesson in Thieve's Cant or the underworld slang of the era.
The only off-note (and it is a fairly minor quibble), was that the mystery itself was good but not that unique or exceptional...but this book isn't really about the mystery, it is more of a glorious walk through the period, the lives of the characters, the atmosphere and the cold reality of the hangman's noose and its impact on pre-Victorian society.