Gallows Thief

Gallows Thief


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Rider Sandman, a hero at Waterloo, returns home to a country where both corruption and social unrest run rampant, and where "justice" is most often delivered—to those whose primary crime is poverty—at the end of a hangman's noose.

Penniless, Sandman accepts a job investigating the case of a painter due to be hanged for a murder he didn't commit. In a race against the clock, Sandman moves from the hellish bowels of Newgate prison to the perfumed drawing rooms of the aristocracy—and in the process begins to peel back the layers of an utterly corrupt penal system that pits him against the wealthiest and most ruthless men in Regency England.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780007129591
Publisher: Ulverscroft Large Print Books, Ltd.
Publication date: 10/01/2001
Product dimensions: 4.33(w) x 5.51(h) x (d)

About the Author

BERNARD CORNWELL is the author of the acclaimed New York Times bestselling Saxon Tales series, which includes The Last Kingdom, The Pale Horseman, Lords of the North, Sword Song, The Burning Land, Death of Kings, The Pagan Lord, and, most recently, The Empty Throne and Warriors of the Storm, and which serves as the basis for the hit television series The Last Kingdom. He lives with his wife on Cape Cod and in Charleston, South Carolina.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Rider Sandman was up late that Monday morning because he had been paid seven guineas to play for Sir John Hart's eleven against a Sussex team, the winners to share a bonus of a hundred guineas, and Sandman had scored sixty-three runs in the first innings and thirty-two in the second, and those were respectable scores by any standard, but Sir John's eleven had still lost. That had been on the Saturday and Sandman, watching the other batsmen swing wildly at ill-bowled balls, had realized that the game was being thrown. The bookmakers were being fleeced because Sir John's team had been expected to win handily, not least because the famed Rider Sandman was playing for it, but someone must have bet heavily on the Sussex eleven, which, in the event, won the game by an innings and forty-eight runs. Rumor said that Sir John himself had bet against his own side and Sir John would not meet Sandman's eyes, which made the rumor believable.

So Captain Rider Sandman walked back to London.

He walked because he refused to share a carriage with men who had accepted bribes to lose a match. He loved cricket, he was good at it, he had once, famously, scored a hundred and fourteen runs for an England eleven playing against the Marquess of Canfield's picked men, and lovers of the game would travel many miles to see Captain Rider Sandman, late of His Majesty's 52nd Regiment of Foot, perform at the batting crease. But he hated bribery and he detested corruption and he possessed a temper, and that was why he fell into a furious argument with his treacherous teammates, and when they slept that night in SirJohn's comfortable house and rode back to London in comfort next morning, Sandman did neither. He was too proud.

Proud and poor. He could not afford the stagecoach fare, nor even a common carrier's fare, because in his anger he had thrown his match fee back into Sir John Hart's face and that, Sandman conceded, had been a stupid thing to do, for he had earned that money honestly, yet even so it had felt dirty. So he walked home, spending the Saturday night in a hayrick somewhere near Hickstead and trudging all that Sunday until the right sole was almost clean off his boot. He reached Drury Lane very late that night and he dropped his cricket gear on the floor of his rented attic room and stripped himself naked and fell into the narrow bed and slept. Just slept. And was still sleeping when the trapdoor dropped in Old Bailey and the crowd's cheer sent a thousand wings startling up into the smoky London sky. Sandman was still dreaming at half past eight. He was dreaming, twitching, and sweating. He called out in incoherent alarm, his ears filled with the thump of hooves and the crash of muskets and cannon, his eyes astonished by the hook of sabers and slashes of straight-bladed swords, and this time the dream was going to end with the cavalry smashing through the thin red-coated ranks, but then the rattle of hooves melded into a rush of feet on the stairs and a sketchy knock on his flimsy attic door. He opened his eyes, realized he was no longer a soldier, and then, before he could call out any response, Sally Hood was in the room. For a second Sandman thought the flurry of bright eyes, calico dress, and golden hair was a dream, then Sally laughed. "I bleeding woke you. Gawd, I'm sorry!" She turned to go.

"It's all right, Miss Hood." Sandman fumbled for his watch. He was sweating. "What's the time?"

"St. Giles just struck half after eight," she told him.

"Oh, my Lord!" Sandman could not believe he had slept so late. He had nothing to get up for, but the habit of waking early had long taken hold. He sat up in bed, remembered he was naked, and snatched the thin blanket up to his chest. "There's a gown hanging on the door, Miss Hood. Would you be so kind?"

Sally found the dressing gown. "It's just that I'm late" — she explained her sudden appearance in his room — "and my brother's brushed off and I've got work, and the dress has to be hooked up, see?" She turned her back, showing a length of bare spine. "I'd have asked Mrs. Gunn to do it," Sally went on, "only there's a hanging today, so she's off watching. Gawd knows what she can see, considering she's half-blind and all drunk, but she does like a good hanging and she ain't got many pleasures left at her age. It's all right, you can get up now. I've got me peepers shut."

Sandman climbed out of bed warily, for there was only a limited area in his tiny attic room where he could stand without banging his head on the beams. He was a tall man, an inch over six foot, with pale gold hair, blue eyes, and a long, rawboned face. He was not conventionally handsome — his face was too rugged for that — but there was a capability and a kindness in his expression that made him memorable. He pulled on the dressing gown and tied its belt. "You say you've got work?" he asked Sally. "A good job, I hope?"

"Ain't what I wanted," Sally said, "because it ain't on deck."

"Deck? "

"Stage, Captain," she said. She called herself an actress and perhaps she was, though Sandman had seen little evidence that the stage had much use for Sally, who, like Sandman, clung to the very edge of respectability and was held there, it seemed, by her brother, a very mysterious young man who worked strange hours. "But it ain't..."

Gallows Thief. Copyright © by Bernard Cornwell. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Gallows Thief 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
Neilsantos on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was ok, I'd probably buy it, not quite as gripping to me as his military stuff.
barpurple on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Think Prattchet's Sam Vimes mixed with Cornwall's Richard Sharpe and you've got Rider Sandman. Gallow's Thief has all of the colour and depth that is found in Cornwall's novels. You'll get a great education in "flash"!
harpua on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I tried, I really did try. A good friend recommended this book too me and let me borrow his copy. I immediately sat down and devoured the first chapter which was incredible. Moving past that initial setup, it came to a screeching halt for me. It's the not the typical kind of book I read anyway and this just moved way to slow for me. If you like this genre, then this may be a great book. My friend reads a lot of these type of books and he loved it. Just not for me.
rsstick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Captain Rider Sandman is down on his luck. His father, Ludovic Sandman, after swindling a number of people of large amounts of money and losing all his own fortune, had committed suicide leaving his family with a disgraced name and no money. This catastrophe caused Rider to sell his army commission to provide a modest home for his mother and sister, and forced his beloved fiancee Eleanor to break off their engagement at the insistance of her mother. His two consolations are cricket, from which he derived a small income, and his clubfooted friend, the Rev. Lord Alexander Pleydell. Things were about to change.Cornwell has deftly woven a delightful who-done-it set mostly in London two years after Waterloo. This is by far the most lighthearted Cornwell novel I have come across, but it still offers a rich plot, strong characterizations, suspense, and enough twists and turns to keep me guessing until the end. I loved it!
hjjugovic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Cornwell creates another Sharpe-like protagonist in post-Napoleanic London. Sandman investigates the innocence of a man condemned to hang at Newgate in a world that does not care much for justice. Cornwell's portrayal of a London hungry for death, and the flaws in the justice system, illuminate a time when the death penalty was commonplace and questions its place in our own time.
BruderBane on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A great one shot from Cornwell. I have truly become enamored with this man¿s work and find even this stand alone a great read. Although not packed with wall-to-wall battle scenes like his other novels, Cornwell manages to capture the malaise and drama of the era.
Bookmarque on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A decent tale, but had flaws. The central crime made no sense since the perpetrator was so wealthy and had covered up enough of it that it was unbelievable that he wouldn't take a final and permanent step to silence the last witness. And the ending seemed very cliched and as if it were being written for a 1940s serial and not a modern novel.
golfjr on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
more juvenile than his other novels; holds your interest but
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Consistently well done like all the rest of Cromwell's books.
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Great story written with beautifully descriptive language.
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GtzLstNRding More than 1 year ago
A tale of the start of the judicial system. Back in early England, a murder mystery, blackmail and a framed artist. This story unravels a mystery that shows the beginning of the legal system. Overall not a bad read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gallows Gate is a good adventure story that is easy to read. The historical fiction gives interesting facts about the lives during this time.
Magdalena25 More than 1 year ago
This was the first book of Cornwell's that I have read and it was well done. The subject was very interesting and I liked Rider Sandman although I thought the pace of the novel a little slow and the storyline predictable. The plot was a little too simple and I tend to like my mysteries and detective stories to be thick and twisted. Anyway, it was an enjoyable read overall.