The Last Days of Newgate by Andrew Pepper

This book, set in London in 1829, is the first book in a series about Pyke, a Bow Street Runner, and sometime crook of questionable (to say the least) morals.

The book is set at a time for great change for the policing system: Home Secretary Peel had his plans to set up one ruling Police Force, and thus put Runners like Pike, out of work.  His plans were opposed by many, and this conflict is very well illustrated in this book.

Pyke finds himself caught up in trying to solve a brutal triple murder, and his investigations uncover a web of deception which perhaps goes as high as the Government itself, and which threatens Pyke’s livelihood and even his life.  

Aided by an enigmatic society beauty (which comes across far less cliched than that sounds), Pyke has to stay one step ahead of the powers that be at all time, as he faces danger from known and unknown persons.

I really enjoyed this book.  The action moves along at a fair old pace, and I never found myself getting bored.  1820s London is brought vividly to life, with detailed descriptions of the way of life.  However, the historical references did not detract from the main storyline; they merely served to help set the scene.

Pyke is a terrific main character.  He is a cruel and brutal man, who I felt I should dislike, but there was just enough goodness in him to make me want to root for him all the way.  As a character who was very believable, his actions still took me by surprise on many occasions.

There is a lot of violence and bloodshed in this book, and I can certainly see that that in itself would turn a lot of readers off.  I wouldn’t recommend it to a squeamish friend!  However, if you want a good crime mystery with plenty of twists and turns, and don’t mind some blood and gore, this is a great read.  I look forward to reading the next installment.

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