Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins by Antonia Hodgson

 review by Maryom

Poor Thomas Hawkins has got himself in a mess again - and this time he's on his way to the gallows, convicted of murder!
After his previous adventures in The Devil in the Marshalsea anyone would think Tom would be ready to settle down to a quiet life, but living comfortably with Kitty Sparks, above the "specialist' bookshop she inherited from her guardian, is proving just too dull. Kitty is very much in charge of the shop and its income, even refusing to marry Thomas to prevent him gambling her money away, so when he's offered the chance to earn a little cash he jumps at the offer, even though it comes from one of London's most notorious criminals. 
But while Thomas gets himself involved in court intrigue surrounding the king's mistress and her estranged bully of a husband, another crime is taking place on his doorstep - his quiet law-abiding neighbour has been found brutally, and messily, murdered in his own bed. All the windows and doors of his property were locked and bolted, so the murderer had to have been someone from inside - his children, his apprentice, or his maid - but popular suspicion points at Thomas, especially as he'd been seen hammering on his neighbour's door and threatening him!
As Thomas is transported to the gallows, he reflects on the circumstances that have brought him there and tries desperately to keep up his hopes of a last minute pardon .....will this really prove to be his Last Confession?

 This second outing for Thomas Hawkins takes the reader back to the hustle and bustle of Georgian London - but whereas his previous adventure took place mainly within the confines of the Marshalsea debtors prison, this time he has the freedom of the whole city, from the slums of St Giles, and the coffee shops and brothels of Covent Garden, to the royal court itself; all life is there to be seen. The author has obviously done her research to bring it alive so vividly but it's displayed almost casually in the little details as the action moves forward, rather trotted out lecture-style in lengthy descriptions.
 The main story is the murder of which Thomas stands accused - a closed-room killing, with a limited number of suspects, all with grievances against the victim but none seemingly worth murdering for. Alongside and around this weave a variety of other threads - a bullying husband threatening his wife, a do-gooder trying to reform and clean up the streets, and through all of them the love story between Thomas and Kitty. Thomas remains almost boyish is his desire for adventure, unfortunately it tends to take him to both physically and financially dangerous places; Kitty is clever and shrewd, able to run her business successfully, and,while at times eager to share Tom's adventures, luckily has sense enough for the two of them; together they make a great couple.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Hodder & Stoughton
Genre - adult fiction, historical crime

1 comment:

  1. Really looking forward to reading this, her previous book was my top read for 2014