Gallows Thief

by Bernard Cornwell


Reviewed by Coral

Rider Sandman is a veteran of the Napoleonic wars. After the war's end he was looking forward to marrying his sweetheart Eleanor. Unfortunately for him, the law caught up with his conman father, who killed himself rather than face a trial and public hanging. Honor demanded Rider pay his father's debts, while duty to his mother and sister meant keeping them in a similar lifestyle to what they were used to. Almost bankrupt with no permanent employment, Eleanor's family no longer viewed him as a suitable husband for their daughter.

When temporary employment is offered to him by the Viscount's office - a sizable amount for what is considered a simple day's work - Rider happily accepts. All he needs to do is collect the confession of an already condemned man - Charles Corday, convicted of the rape and murder of a countess - to satisfy Corday's family connections that he is indeed guilty. But this simple talk with Corday plants doubts in Rider's mind leading him to look further into the case. And the more he investigates the more it looks like Corday is innocent and that powerful people are all too willing to let an innocent man hang to protect themselves.

I enjoyed this book. The identity of the killer came as a surprise to me - although that is true of most mystery books.

Near the end there actions and decisions made by a character that I didn't understand but then I think it all gets tied up neatly and not in a "glossing over inconsistencies" way.

I understand the need to give Rider some allies but I didn't really enjoy the subplots that revolved around Sally and her many admirers.

Grade: B