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Chris High reviews Andrew Pepper's book: The Last Days Of Newgate

THE LAST DAYS OF NEWGATE

Andrew Pepper

Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicholson
ISBN: 0 297 8523 7 X
July 6th, 2006

Front cover of the book by Andrew Pepper: The Last Days Of Newgate


THE LAST DAYS OF NEWGATE
Written by
ANDREW PEPPER


Historical fiction is, undoubtedly, on the increase and Andrew Pepper’s debut novel, The Last days Of Newgate, should be mentioned in such glowing terms as that received for Andrew Taylor’s An American Boy such is it ability to engage.

Gritty, dark and sinister, here is a work of fiction that readily brings the past to life with a tale of low cunning, desperate measures, love, revenge and murder that stirs the soul.

 

St Giles, London, 1829: three people have been brutally murdered and the city simmers with anger and political unrest. Pyke, sometime Bow Street Runner, sometime crook, finds himself accidentally embroiled in the murder investigation but quickly realises that he has stumbled into something more sinister and far-reaching. In his pursuit of the murderer, Pyke ruffles the feathers of some powerful people, and, falsely accused of murder himself, he soon faces a death sentence, and the gallows of Old Bailey. Imprisoned, and with only his uncle and the headstrong, aristocratic daughter of his greatest enemy who believe in him, Pyke must engineer his escape, find the real killer and untangle the web of politics that has been spun around him.

Brilliantly crafted and elegantly styled, Andrew Pepper has utilised all of his many collected skills as English lecturer at Queens University, Belfast, to deliver feelings in the reader of overwhelming admiration and deep-seated loathing for his hero, Pyke.

The descriptions of “Old London Town” are intrinsically realistic and underlined by the use of real historical figures of importance in central roles. Robert Peel, Prime Minister and recognised founder of the police force, is an integral player within the tale, though is never over-used or over-played to the point where the novel becomes a lecture.

Awash with intense action and slickly handled dialogue, the reader is quickly immersed into the seedy underworld of London of nearly two centuries past, that makes Dickens’s attempts seem somewhat Disneyfied in comparison. This is not the type of place that one would travel to on Holiday and Pepper’s ability to capture the essence of a corrupt and polluted society is exemplary.

A deeply satisfying read, The Last Days Of Newgate is a powerful and at times disturbing read that is guaranteed to keep bedroom lights burning long after midnight has passed.

Order this book online - Linghams Booksellers


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