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London, 1728. A young, well-dressed man is driven through streets of jeering onlookers to the gallows at Tyburn. They call him a murderer. But Tom Hawkins is innocent and somehow he has to prove it, before the rope squeezes the life out of him.
It is, of course, all his own fault. He was happy settling down with Kitty Sparks. He should never have told the most dangerous criminal in London that he was bored and looking for adventure. He should never have offered to help, the king's mistress. And most of all, he should never have trusted the witty, calculating Queen Caroline. She has promised him a royal pardon if he holds his tongue but then again, there is nothing more silent than a hanged man.
Based loosely on actual events, Antonia Hodgson's new novel is both a sequel to The Devil in the Marshalsea and a standalone historical mystery. From the gilded cage of the Court to the wicked freedoms of the slums, it reveals a world both seductive and deadly. And it continues the rake's progress of Tom Hawkins - assuming he can find a way to survive the noose...
Set in England in the early 18th century, Hodgson's sequel to 2014's The Devil in the Marshalsea is as good as her stellar debut, which won the CWA's Historical Dagger Award. A prologue depicts Thomas Hawkins, a gentleman who has spent time in debtors' prison, on his way to the gallows for murder, hoping against hope for a last-minute pardon. The main narrative charts the twisted path that led to Hawkins's desperate straits. He has been living with his lover, Kitty Sparks, in London, but Hawkins, who has found that he has a taste for danger, allies himself with James Fleet, "captain of the most powerful gang of thieves in St. Giles." Hawkins soon finds himself out of his depth when Fleet gives him an assignment that enmeshes him in royal intrigue. And things only get worse when a neighbor Hawkins threatened is stabbed to death. Hodgson maintains pitch-perfect suspense, craftily constructs a fairly clued whodunit, and convincingly evokes the period. This second novel by the editor-in-chief at Little, Brown U.K. solidifies her position as a major talent in the genre.