Gallows Thief (Reviews)

NEW FICTION, by Gavin Esler
Fri 19 Oct 2001
Daily Mail

Bernard Cornwell is a literary miracle. Year after year, hail, rain, snow, war and political upheavals fail to prevent him from producing the most entertaining and readable historical novels of his generation. And this is one of his best. Rider Sandman is a typical Cornwell hero, rather like his best known central character from the Sharpe series, Richard Sharpe. Sandman is poor but honest, a decent man in desperate times. The story opens with a stomach-churning series of public hangings in 1817, and then switches to Sandman being offered money to investigate a murder and the chance to save a convicted murderer from the gallows. The authorities are convinced that Charles Corday, a portrait painter, murdered a countess whose portrait he was painting. But before stringing up Corday, the Home Secretary is forced, by the intervention of the Queen, to hire an investigator to confirm the painter’s guilt. Sandman is an early 19th centruy Philip Marlowe, a Georgian private detective, moving effortessly from aristocratic circles to the slums and jails of London. Cornwell at his best is utterly compelling. And this is Cornwell at his best.