As I wrote for my review of The Devil in the Mashalsea, I fell in love with Antonia Hodgson’s protagonist Thomas Hawkins. In fact, it was actually this book I picked up first, intrigued by its blurb, before I realised it was the sequel.
So, now that I’ve read the first book and have finally moved onto the second, does it live up to snuff?
Oh, it does. In fact, The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins is one of the most entertaining books I’ve read so far in 2017.
A young gentleman is pulled through the streets of London. Bystanders gawk at the carriage he rides, scowling, throwing curses as he passes by. In the distance, the gallows loom over London.
The year is 1782. And former gentleman Thomas Hawkins is doomed to hang for a crime he didn’t commit.
Deceit, betrayal, love and royalty: If Tom has any hope of surviving, he must overcome them all before it is too late.
So you know how I said, in my last review, that the plot of The Devil in the Marshalsea dragged its heels? That Hodgson spent a lot of time showing us around a 1700’s gaol, rather than using that research to drive the story forward?
Well, I can safely say that she learnt her lesson. The plot of The Last Confessions of Thomas Hawkins had me hooked by the neck from start to finish. And there’s a few reasons for this:
- The story doesn’t take place in the small space of the gaol, but rather the whole of London. Although there are a handful of key locations that the characters return to again and again – like Thomas’ home, the Palace, the underground criminal hideouts – it gives the reader a wider sense of setting, and therefore a bigger sense of scale when considering the plot.
- The characters are a lot of fun. Yes, the first book had Samuel Fleet. But now we have Queen Caroline, Henrietta Howard, James Fleet, Sam Fleet, Kitty Sparks – if the characters were colours, this book would be blinding. With a more entertaining cast of characters, we are more inclined to see their stories play out around Thomas, and thus we’re more hooked into the story. And speaking of…
- The stakes are much, MUCH higher for Thomas. (As if the blurb didn’t give that away.) In the first book, the threat lay upon Thomas’ well being. But now? Thomas has others to worry about. His own life is threatened, yes, but he isn’t the lone rogue he used to be. He has people to care for – and people who, despite his disbelief, care for him.
If the first book was focused upon the corruption of the state, this book deals with a weightier subject: Responsibility. Specifically, who should bear the burden of it in a variety of situations, and how blame can be manipulated into the wrong people’s hands.
Who should be to blame for a good for nothing son? Who should be to blame for an unrequited love? And most crucial of all: What happens when the blame for murder falls into the wrong hands?
Hawkins is a fantastic protagonist, as always. But now the problems of the previous book have been cleared away, leaving a fun, gripping, plot-twisting narrative that I highly recommend. If you adore lovable rogues like I do, then I really recommend you give this series a shot. I know that you won’t regret it.
Have you read The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins? Did you read a sequel that was better than the original? Leave a comment down below, or let me know on my Twitter @ERHollands. And hey, if you haven’t yet, check out my review of the first book here!