Britain, 1820s: After the wars with France, when unemployment was high and soldiers could be paid off, when the government was desperately afraid of social unrest, any crime was drastically punished and thousands were hung. But one could petition the King and an investigation might ensue….
The man in the dark cell in Newgate Prison was due to hang in a week. He had been found guilty of murdering the aristocrat whose portrait he was painting. He claimed to be innocent – but then the hangman had never hung a guilty man, he said. But even in 1820, the Home Secretary could occasionally use his powers to grant mercy if his investigator found cause, and Captain Hawke, once of the First Foot Guards, is given the job, since justice must be seen to be done - as the accused man's mother is seamstress to the Queen.
Robert Hawke, a hero of Waterloo, has family debts to repay but when his first steps in the investigations produce a sizeable bribe to look the other way, this only arouses his smouldering anger over the condition of England, a country which he and others in Wellington's army had fought to preserve. Stepping between gentlemen's clubs and taverns, talking to aristocrats, fashionable painters, their models, and their mistresses, dodging professional cut-throats and deceptive swordsmen, Hawke uncovers a conspiracy of silence, a group whose proudest boast was that they would do anything for any one of them.
Hawke is a wonderful character, as yet undaunted by the sleazy streets, dank jails or the looming scaffold, and uncorrupted by politicians, sneering gentlemen or frightening bruisers, an investigator in the making and a brilliant, but very different, hero for all Bernard Cornwell fans.
"What a very fine writer Mr Cornwell has become." (The Economist)
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OK but could have been better
I had read other books by Bernard Cornwell but in my opinion this is not the best.
I only read other books by Bernard Cornwell, maybe it is the period of this book that made it different as I only read medieval type of story from the author and it was much better. Or maybe the problem is in the abridge version which is the first time I opt for that,
I have not listened to other books narrated by James Frain but he does a great job with this. Apart the woman's voice, it was painful to listen but the other voices he is excellent.
James Frain :-)