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The Thief-Taker: Memoirs of a Bow Street Runner Mass Market Paperback – October 1, 2002


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Penzler Pick, November 2001: The first in a new series called "Memoirs of a Bow Street Runner," this well-executed historical draws readers back into the London of the early 19th century, when hackney coaches fought for space with brewery carts, horse-drawn chaises, peddlers' wagons, and milling throngs on the city's rough-and-tumble streets.

Banks has created a living, breathing landscape peopled with such characters as Bow Street constable Henry Morton and his intimate acquaintance, actress Arabella Malibrant, along with Chief Bow Street Magistrate Sir Nathaniel Conant, all of whom one will be delighted to encounter again.

When we first meet the large, lean Morton, with his "dark and inquisitive" eyes, the independent-minded officer of the law has been summoned from the boxing ring, where he regularly takes evening exercise, to the Portman Square townhouse of Mrs. Malibrant. There a rich young gentleman in an unfortunate condition (he is dead!) has arrived in a hackney, the driver of which has disappeared into the gloom of night.

Apparently the corpse had been alive enough that very morning to participate in a duel, but he has not succumbed to any wounds sustained in that battle. Upon seeing the body, as Arabella reports to Morton, one of her dinner guests, a Miss Louisa Hamilton, nearly fell over prostrate with grief.

"If you had heard poor Miss Hamilton cry out, Henry, you would have done anything to ease her pain. I tell you, it was wrenching. I could never duplicate it." She pitched her voice low and tried anyway. "'Oh, Richard, Richard...'"

"Very touching, I'm sure," Morton said. "There is only one problem...."

Arabella raised one perfect eyebrow.

"His name was not Richard."

Not all mystery fans enjoy the historical subgenre, while others read nothing else. This book is entertaining enough to appeal to either group, with T.F. Banks possessing the confidence and light touch of an outstanding new talent. --Otto Penzler --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Canadian author Banks depicts a Regency London as grimly fascinating as Dickens's Victorian London in this neatly plotted historical introducing Bow Street constable Henry Morton. When the body of Halbert Glendinning, a gentleman of impeccable character, turns up one night in a hackney cab with no driver in Claridge Square, it appears he choked to death on his own vomit. Fearing foul play, the dead man's fianc‚e hires Morton to investigate. Morton himself suspects poison, but in the early days of forensics such a verdict is difficult to establish. The constable's search for answers takes him from the town houses of the wellborn to the notorious brothels and gin-shops of Spitalfields. What he finds leads him not just to question the mode of Glendinning's death but to uncover a web of deceit and corruption that endangers his own life and reaches far beyond the scope of his original commission. The author brings his characters to life in dialogue both natural and evocative of the period, while the relationship between Morton and his servant, Wilkes, is as enjoyable as that between Margery Allingham's Campion and Lugg. In addition to the small details, Banks captures the complex moral tenor of the time on a variety of social levels (Morton's landlady is appalled to discover she's been renting rooms to a "horney"). Other Regency mysteries may feature historical personages such as Jane Austen or Beau Brummel as detectives, but the fictional Henry Morton shines in his debut without benefit of an established identity. (Oct. 16)Forecast: The classy jacket art and crossover appeal to Regency romance readers should give this title a boost.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Dell (October 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440236967
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440236962
  • Product Dimensions: 4.5 x 0.6 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #865,715 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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This is a great read and looking forward to the second in the series.
Louis M. Perdue
After finishing this wonderful mystery set in early 1800's London, I was delighted to see that the author, T. J. Banks, was at work on his next Bow Street Runner book.
Karen Kirsch
I also found myself appreciating the way in which Banks vividly depicted all the characters, both primary and secondary, in the book.
tregatt

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 39 people found the following review helpful By tregatt on October 27, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The Bow Street Runners do not, by large, enjoy a very good reputation in history or literature. They are frequently accused of, and portrayed as, individuals that were highly corrupt and self serving, incompetent and stupid. And yet, there probably were Runners who were highly professional, capable, intelligent, honest and decent. And T. F. Banks's new novel, "The Thief Taker: Memoirs of a Bow Street Runner" centers on the work and cases of exactly one such runner, Henry Morton, who deplores the fact that Runners have such a bad reputation, even if it is well deserved. He has hopes that by setting a good example himself, he will inspire both confidence in the public for the Runners as to their trustworthiness, as well as encourage his fellow Runners to change their ways and take their chosen profession more seriously.
The events that takes place in "The Thief Taker" start off in June of 1815. Even as England waits uneasily for news of the wars from the Continent, life goes on as usual -- dinner parties are still being held, the theatres are still open, robberies and murder are still being perpetrated, and the Runners are still apprehending wrongdoers and bringing them to justice. One evening, Henry Morton is summoned to Portman House in Claridge Square. There, he finds young Halbert Glendinning dead from asphyxiating on his own vomit, according to the doctor at hand. However, Morton is not so sanguine that this is indeed the case. Noticing that the 'good' doctor had not made any kind of examination before rendering his opinion, Morton examines the body carefully, and comes to the conclusion that Gledenning's death was probably murder, and that it was brought about by poison.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Michael K. Smith TOP 500 REVIEWER on December 15, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Historical mysteries seem to be all the rage these days, but this is one of the best I've seen lately. Set in London during the summer of 1815 -- Waterloo summer -- it's the story of Henry Morton, a constable with the king's warrant, working as a semi-independent policeman out of the Magistrate's office at No. 4, Bow Street. I know something about the time and the place, and Banks seems to have made no false steps at all in his depiction of the people of a London which had a very low opinion of professional cops (who worked on commission for each felon hanged). The plot is also very well done, involving several murders, theft of antiquities, and deep corruption among the Runners of Bow Street. The principal characters -- Arabella, the actress with whom Morton has a nonexclusive arrangement, and Lord Arthur Darley, Arabella's other interest, whose open friendliness Morton isn't entirely at ease with, and young Jimmy Presley, who seems likely to make a good Runner himself if he's careful, and Sir Nathaniel Conant, the Chief Magistrate -- are introduced in such a way as to make you look forward to their future interaction. The story does not begin with the beginning of Morton's career, for he makes numerous references to events in his own past, and the author is already at work on the second volume in the series -- which I look forward to reading.
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32 of 37 people found the following review helpful By booksforabuck VINE VOICE on November 3, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Napoleon is loose on France and Belgium, George III is insane and his son rules as regent, and modern policing is being born. In London, the Bay Street Runners hunt down criminals--and are paid by the catch. It's a perfect setup for corruption. In a London where wealth and squallor live side-by-side, the police are held in contempt by everyone.
Henry Morton is a Bay Street Runner. When his ladyfriend calls on him to inspect a young man who arrives dead at a party, he suspects murder. A local doctor assures everyone that the young man simply drank too much, killing himself. When Morton learns that some of his fellow officers broke up an arranged duel that morning, he begins to suspect that the corruption in Bay Street goes beyond simply taking a few pounds to look the other way.
Author T. F. Banks writes an exciting tale of adventure and humanity. Morton is a well developed character and Banks's characterization of the young prostitute Lucy is charming. Although in retrospect a few of the plot twists were a little stretched, at the time I was reading, I didn't notice--I was too caught up in what was going to happen next.
A very enjoyable book.
I appreciate your 'helpful' vote.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Daniel H. Bigelow VINE VOICE on February 15, 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I sought out this series on the rebound, as it were -- having completed the Bow Street Runners mysteries of the late Bruce Alexander and seeking a period-mystery replacement. It seemed sensible to take over where the last series left off and pick up this decently-regarded mystery series set among the Runners of a later era, as stockings and tricorn hats give way to Beau Brummell suits among England's fashionable. Unfortunately, my brilliant idea left me comparing the two series and making it hard for me to judge this book for itself.

Taking it on its own merits, what The Thief-Taker offers is a tightly plotted police thriller with a decent mystery thrown in for good measure. The action scenes are well done and the pacing is quick enough that even though the pieces of the mystery are late falling together, you can forgive the delay. The book's a real page-turner, particularly in the last third or so when our hero's chief nemesis is revealed and battle is joined in earnest.

Where the book falls down is characterization. And here, perhaps, I am tainted by unwarranted comparisons to the Alexander series, which featured amiable and realistic characters that ingratiate the reader to the point at which each new book was more a chance to hang out with old friends again than to solve a new mystery. Compared to those characters, and, I think, to most, the protagonist here is more of a wish-fulfillment fantasy: handsome, physically indomitable, incorruptible, brilliant, instinctively loved by the righteous and hated by the evil, and having an affair with the most beautiful and sought-after woman in London.
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