Book – Gallows Thief
Author – Bernard Cornwall
Year – 2001
Genre – Historical Proto-Detective (thank you Wikipedia)
Lent to me by Jackie Campbell
Bernard Cornwall is probably most famous for his Sharpe series of books, the first of which I read as part of last year’s challenge. I found that book to be incredibly well written, but as my knowledge of the Napoleonic wars is not immense, I am pretty sure that I missed a certain something of the appeal.
Gallows Thief is set in the early 1800s – a similar time to the aforementioned Sharpe novels – and tells the story of Captain Rider Sandman, a former soldier fallen on hard times who is appointed to investigate the possible innocence of Charles Cordey, a painter accused of murder. Sandman’s continued honour and determination lead him on a huge and dangerous mission to uncover all of the truths of the case before the condemned can be executed.
This kind of historical piece is rarely the kind of thing that I look forward to reading, but Gallows Thief is an incredibly engaging story, and with such wonderfully defined characters that I had no trouble whatsoever in getting fully involved in the book. There is enough intrigue – although I managed to work out how it would pan out; not something I often manage with mystery or crime books – to keep you on the edge of your seat, and at several points I found myself reading over the pages so quickly to find out what was going to happen that I realised I was going to have to go back and read it again – always the sign of an exciting book.
Cornwall is a pretty prolific writer, and one who is often referenced by other authors – particularly in the fantasy genre, despite it not being an area he delves into himself – as an inspiration to their work. Having finished this book, I feel that maybe I have been missing out a little in not reading more of his work. All you charity shops had better start stocking up for me.