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Book Title: Rapscallion|
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 693 KB
City - Country: No data
The author of the book: James McGee
Date of issue: February 1st 2009
ISBN 13: 9780007212743
Loaded: 2709 times
Reader ratings: 6.3
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James McGee is another author I discovered by picking up a book in a charity shop. In that case it was the first book in his 'Hawkwood' series "Ratcatcher". Since then I've read all the Hawkwood books and have found them to be hugely entertaining. Rapscallion, the third in the series, is no exception.
Each of the Hawkwood books have been slightly different in tone. Ratcatcher was a police mystery where our hero had to prevent a bomb being set off in London - strangely topical, Resurrectionist was a quasi-horror story of gravediggers and a Frankenstein-like mad man. Rapscallion is an action adventure. All of the books are set in the Regency period around the time of the Peninsular Wars before Bonaparte was captured and exiled.
The book begins with, our hero, Bow Street Runner Matthew Hawkwood, being sent undercover to the prison hulks where hundreds of French prisoners-of-war are held. His mission is to discover how several prisoners have escaped and what has become of two naval officers also sent to investigate the prison escapes. To do this, he is placed on "The Rapacious" a filthy, stinking prison hulk, so deep undercover that only two men know he is there as a police officer - a fact to which Hawkwood responds:
"In that case, I hope you all remain in good health. I'd hate to find that I'm stranded on the bloody ship because you've all been struck dead in your beds."
To aid his undercover persona of an American prisoner of war, he attaches himself to another prisoner, French privateer, Lasseur (who is unaware that Hawkwood is undercover). The couple remain together throughout the rest of the novel and it is the way that this 'odd couple' interact with each other which provided most of the pleasure for me in reading this book. They are very different in their personalities. Hawkwood is unsentimental, dour, realistic and often resigned; Lasseur is romantic, sentimental, optimistic and often has a devil-may-care attitude. It doesn't take them long to form a friendship despite their differences and also despite being on opposite sides of the war. It is this last point that makes the relationship most interesting as, even though they are friends, you know that either one would kill the other for the sake of their own country and come very close to doing so on a number of occasions.
McGee's other Hawkwood novels are set almost entirely in London. This book is set in a number of places from the prison hulks, to the Kent countryside, to the enemy's lair, to the English Channel. It is this constant moving around which provides much of the impetus in the novel and makes it a fast paced read. Each setting is lovingly described in historically accurate detail. This is no wallpaper history, diluted down for our twenty-first century sensibilities. We are treated to detailed descriptions of the sights, sounds and smells of hundreds of men trapped on a prison hulk - including the state of the toilet facilities! To be honest, I wouldn't have it any other way. The description draws you into the book, making you experience, through Hawkwood's eyes, the desperate circumstances of these ships. I was immersed.
This was a most enjoyable read: A fast paced storyline; believable and interesting characters; and good, accurate period detail. I wouldn't hesitate to give this a grade of 'Excellent'.
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James McGee was born into an army family. He was educated in Gibraltar, Germany and Belfast, giving him a love of travel, which is evident in his meticulous, vivid portraits of diverse people and places. His career has encompassed banking, bookselling and thirteen years in the airline business. He has also presented book reviews for BBC local radio and several independent stations.
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