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The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins Hardcover – March 15, 2016
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“Hodgson has provided another pell-mell romp through the top and bottom of English society, as seen through the eyes of a gentleman who is both a rogue and a naïf. Those who relish their historical action fast and vivid will enjoy the second installment of Hawkins's misadventures.”—Library Journal, starred review
“As good as her stellar debut...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.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“With a dramatic storytelling style that includes many unsavory characters, Hodgson keeps readers on tenterhooks as Hawkins nears the gallows. Suspenseful and filled with witty dialogue, this series is reminiscent of James McGee’s atmospheric Matthew Hawkwood novels and has the descriptive appeal of Sara Stockbridge’s Victorian mystery Grace Hammer. “—Booklist
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I applaud Hodgson's skill here and hope there's another in the works from such a creative mind. Highly recommend this to all readers.
After he came close to dying in debtors’ prison in The Devil in the Marshalsea, Tom should be living a reformed life. However, bored with a his relatively tame existence, Tom has returned to his old habits of drinking and gambling. (Only his love for Kitty, the young woman he met in prison, has kept him from a return to wenching, too.) Still, he feels hemmed in, and so he welcomes the opportunity presented by a crime lord to meet with a courtier who has a problem that needs solving. Tom should know that getting involved with the court is likely to end badly—and it does, when it turns out that the courtier just happens to be a lady-in-waiting to Queen Caroline, as well as the king’s mistress. With the queen herself giving him orders, Tom has little choice but to involve himself with a very dangerous lord. But his troubles don’t end there, because when his neighbor is murdered under strange circumstances, Tom finds himself accused of the crime and facing hanging. He’s gotten himself into another mess, and this time it looks like he might pay with his life.
I was eager to read this book because I really liked the first in this series, but while I enjoyed this one, I don’t think it was quite as good. I still like Tom, who is a bit of a rogue but possesses a good heart. However, Tom was a pretty hapless sort in the first book, and he hasn’t learned much this time around. Several characters make reference to the fact that while Tom is educated, he doesn’t have street smarts, and therefore he isn’t prepared to cope with what is happening to him. However, I think a bigger problem is that Tom doesn’t seem to have much common sense. It doesn’t take much street smarts to realize that if you should be lying low, you don’t go parading up the street to your house in broad daylight, for example. In the first book, Tom’s choices were limited by the fact that he was shut up in debtors’ prison, but here, he makes several boneheaded moves that were harder for me to excuse.
One thing that is equally good this time around, though, is the author’s ability to draw a picture of what it was like to live in Georgian London. From the filth of the streets to the horrors of prison life, Hodgson made me feel like I was there. We often have a tendency to romanticize the past, but she does a terrific job of showing just how brutish life could be if you weren’t lucky enough to be wealthy.
I don’t think it’s really a spoiler to say that Tom’s hanging doesn’t go as planned. At the end of the novel, Tom finds himself forced to leave London on a mission for the queen. He swears that he has learned his lesson this time, but now he may be trapped in a life that will continue to bring him trouble.
Which might be very bad for Tom, but I’m looking forward to more of Tom’s adventures! Let’s hope he starts acquiring some of that common sense that he’s been lacking, though. It will probably serve him well as he finds himself investigating more crimes.
An ARC of this novel was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.