Review: THIEVE’S JUSTICE by Douglas Skelton

ISBN e-book: 978180436,088, £3.99

ISBN Hardback: 978180436089 £14.99

NOTE: Apologies for typos. I am dictating this because I have just had an operation on a nerve in my arm and I’m not supposed to be typing! 

It is always good to discover a new writer. I was sent this title by the editor to ask if I would give it a quick look-over for a review. Well, I love books, so usually that’s not an issue – but just now I’m a bit reluctant, because I have several tottering piles of books to review now, as well as one book to finish writing and another to edit. However, this story appealed to me so I said yes. And thank goodness I did!

This book follows the career of Jonas Flynt: thief, gambler and killer; and takes place during the hideous winter of 1716, when the Thames froze over, and bodies could be found lying frozen in the gutters. At the same time there were ructions from the latest Scottish battles  for the British throne ( I think after the battle of Sheriffmuir ) and several ringleaders were being held while their fate was discussed – hang, draw and quarter them, or maybe just behead the nobles involved? What a period! What fun for a crime writer!

The story begins when Jonas Flynt meets justice of Geoffrey Dumont, a judge, whom Jonas has met at a gambling den. Dumont is found dead at the base of St Paul’s Cathedral, and a young, male sex worker, Sam Yates, has been taken into custody for the murder. He denies all the charges, claiming he had received a message to meet the judge at the time of death.

The blurb continues: “As Simon endures the horrors of Newgate prison, Flynt must do everything in his power to uncover the truth and save an innocent life, before the bodies begin to pile up.” 

Right well. It’s the sort of blurb you will read on many crime stories – but don’t worry about that. This is clearly not the first book in the series. I believe there was a book before this called AN HONOURABLE THIEF, which introduces Jonas Flynt. I haven’t read that one sadly. But, and it’s a big “but”, I will have to. Why? Because this story was brilliant! I thoroughly enjoyed it from page one to the very last page. My my only real criticism of this story is that Judge Geoffrey Dumont died far too soon. He was a brilliant creation, a fascinating character with humour and wit and great understanding of human nature. I loved the interplay between him and Flynt ( and other characters ). He was a delight, and I really wish the author had kept him going for a little longer, or, perhaps, killed off someone else instead!

The book actually begins in the gambling den with Flynt and Dumont. Flynt is watching another man, the very unpleasant Lord Fairgreave, on behalf of the spymaster Charters. But when he follows his target out of the gambling den, he discovers his lordship trying to waylay the judge to recover his gambling losses. The judge, however, is a less easy target than might be suspected. Jonas helps save him from the ambush, which gives him a certain amount of difficulty. Now his lordship will recognise Jonas, making the task of following him more than a little problematic. Charters will not be happy. 

Flynt and the judge are quick to strike up a friendship as a result, and Flynt enjoys the man’s company – which is why, when he hears the judge has been murdered, he wants to do all he can to investigate and learn the truth. Especially since the supposed murderer is friend to his occasional lover, the prostitute Belle. 

This book takes us into the seedy, criminal underworld of London in the 1700s. We are introduced to Jonathan Wild, a real character noted for his thief-taking activities, and less known at the time for acting as a receiver of stolen goods, protection racketeer, gangleader, and nefarious character generally, and a number of other dodgy Londoners. However, this book goes further. It really brings to life the misery and grim, harsh reality of life on London’s streets for those with no money. It shows life for the poor, under-privileged and desperate.

It is rare for me to find a new writer with a unique voice, historically accurate, writing a well-plotted and -crafted crime story, as well as creating believable characters, and giving a great insight into how people used to live. This book achieves all of those in bucketloads.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was frankly superb and would be loved by anyone who really likes historical crime, especially the 1700s, but not exclusively. The plot rattles along at a great speed, introducing fascinating characters, using a lot of terms and language from the period. 

This book is not just “highly recommended”, it is essential reading! Congratulations to Douglas Skelton for the brilliant characters he’s created here. I cannot wait to get a copy of the previous Flynt stories.

He’s won a new fan in me!

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