Thursday, May 9, 2013

Rapscallion by James McGee

First Sentence: Sark stopped, sank to his knees and listened, but the only sounds he could hear were the pounding of his own heartbeat and the rasping wheeze at the back of his throat as he fought desperately to draw air into his burning lungs.

The British Navy sent two officers out to investigate reports of a smuggling operation and the increase in the number of enemy prisoners who have escaped detention from their prison ships. The first investigator was found having drowned and the second hasn’t been heard from.  The Home Secretary now requests the Bow Street, and Bow Street has assigned Matthew Hawkwood to go undercover aboard one of the ships. Conditions aboard ship are more vile that could be imagined and Hawkwood is soon fighting for his very life.

With each new McGee book, I am fascinated to see on what historical subject he will base his plot. The first book, “Ratcatcher,” had to do with political plots and the security of the Royal Family. The second “Resurrectionist,” was much darker and dealt with grave robbers. This third book focuses on the treatment of foreign prisoners of war and smuggling.

His period descriptions and historical detail make his books evocative and educational. This is high action and suspense at its best. Think Saturday matinee pirate movies. It is definitely plot, rather than character driven, but that doesn’t make the characters any less interesting. It does mean you don’t know whom to trust.

McGee’s writing is incredibly visual, which is both good and a bit hard to deal with at times, and it is always incredibly exciting. There is a bit of “ride to the rescue” at one point, but McGee makes even that work.

This is the consummate edge-of-the-seat, great weekend read and, I think, McGee’s best book so far.

RAPSCALLION (Hist/Pol. Proc-Matthew Hawkwood-Georgian) – VG+
McGee, James – 3rd in series
Pegasus, 2013

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