cover image The Last Days of Newgate

The Last Days of Newgate

Andrew Pepper, . . Phoenix, $15.95 (391pp) ISBN 978-0-7538-2168-8

Set in 1829 London, Pepper’s hard-hitting first Pyke mystery introduces the vicious and vengeful Pyke, a crooked Bow Street Runner. Reform-minded home secretary Robert Peel plans a new police force to replace the Bow Street Runners, whose cozy relationship with London’s low-life and corrupt elite have benefited Pyke and company, heretofore the only law enforcers in town. The murders of a runaway Protestant/Catholic Irish couple and of Pyke’s mistress inflame sectarian conflicts. Framed by his enemies, Pyke is sent to notorious Newgate prison, where he and an aristocratic female prison reformer begin a long and tortured relationship. In a gripping chase scene, Pyke manages to escape Newgate and find his way to Ulster in pursuit of a hate-ridden Irish constable. While readers will learn a lot about the turbulent period in British history that culminated in Catholic emancipation, the brutish Pyke and the book’s graphic violence won’t be to every taste. (July)