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Shadow of the Hangman
The Bow Street Rivals - Book I
Edward Marston

Allison and Busby
19 February 2015 / ISBN 9780749016814
Mystery / Historical / England

Reviewed by Rachel A Hyde


At the time when the Bow Street Runners were a new force there were also many private detectives around, known as thief takers. Such a pair is identical twins Peter and Paul Skillen and they always get their man - much to the dismay of the Runners. Following the successful capture of a burglar, Home Secretary Lord Sidmouth calls upon their talents to catch a pair of escaped convicts. There has been a riot at Dartmoor prison and two American POWs from the recent war are on the run, with the ultimate aim of assassination if their demands are not met. Then there is the rather more mysterious case of Lord Sidmouth's missing cleaner…

I have long been a fan of Mr. Marston's pacy and readable historical mysteries, from the Doomsday Book surveyors to the Railway detective, Elizabethan players and Restoration sleuths. Now he turns his attention to the Regency with a series starting in 1815 featuring Runners versus thief takers. His Runners here seem like the comical bungling Keystone Kops of the early cinema, corrupt and always foiled in their inept attempts to catch the villains. More thought provoking is the author's portrayal of what happens when those with a genuine grievance (imprisoned for being on the losing side in a war) turn to terrorism. This adds a topical note in a novel which, though entertaining and lively enough, is somewhat wanting in period detail. I wanted to feel immersed in Regency London but instead most of the time felt adrift in a vaguely 19thcentury setting that was hard to date. More enjoyable is the mystery surrounding the cleaner's abduction and the almost tangible descriptions of the dockside boxing match. I'd read another - this author is always worth reading - but this is not one of his finest efforts.

Reviews of other titles in this series

Shadow of the Hangman #1
Steps To The Gallows #2
Date With The Executioner #3
Fugitive From The Grave #4

Reviewed 2015