The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins by Antonia Hodgson

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The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins by Antonia Hodgson

Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: Thomas Hawkins, previously of Marshalsea prison is back – but make the most of him! He's on his way to the gallows. A thrilling, informative, fun romp that makes us appreciate Tom (and Antonia Hodgson) all the more.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: June 2015
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1444775457

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A few months after we left Tom in the 1720s we return to find him living in sin and love with Kitty. Or it would be sin if they ever get round to the bed bit. Just as he promised underworld gang leader James Fleet, Tom has taken in James' son Sam to train him in the ways of being a gentleman. All seems to be going well in that department until Tom receives a visit from an old enemy and a brush with the country's ultimate power. Then both collide to create fear and an offer that Tom isn't able to refuse, no matter how hard he tries.

British author Antonia Hodgson shot up the best seller list with her debut The Devil in the Marshalsea. It was within these memorable pages that we were introduced to Tom the loveable gambler, chancer and trouble magnet. Now he's back in an extremely cleverly plotted historical thriller as death stalks his street and knocks upon his door.

Again Tom tells us his own story but there's a series of sombre interludes. Between his first person chapters and at the end the narrative changes to third person vignettes. The reason? These vignettes chart Tom's journey from Newgate Prison to his last appointment: the one with the hangman at Tyburn.

The change in style pulls us up short, making us realise how serious this is compared to the fun, devil may care Tom to whom we've become accustomed. As the story progresses and danger deepens we realise that it's not just the devil who may care; we care too, rather a lot.

There's always a germ of true history in Antonia's hist-fict. Here the germ she nestles into the story is the unfortunate plight of royal mistress Henrietta Howard. Due to her less than accommodating husband whose leaning towards domestic violence was remarked upon even before it was thought a criminal offence, Henrietta spent 1727 and 1728 virtually imprisoned for her own safety at St James Palace. Then when their paths eventually cross, Tom witnesses just how unreasonable Charles Howard actually is.

In general this time out Tom can't do right for doing wrong, be it in the realms of love, gambling or trying to stay on the right side of the authorities. It's not just Howard who has it in for him either. Remember Gonson from last time? Well, he's back, twice as miffed and doggedly looking for anti-Tom opportunities.

Tom's supporting cast are as wonderful as ever. He and Kitty are domestically blissful apart from a few jolts and misalignment in the conjugal department. Tom sometimes finds it hard to understand his beloved but Kitty is resourceful and forceful enough to get her point across!

The other cast member who shines for me is the couple's teenage lodger Sam. Teenage may not have been invented yet but the hormones are there and so the effect is similar, giving rise to a few smiles.

Antonia's thorough and fascinating historical end notes finish off the book again, demonstrating she knows not only her stuff but where to daub it onto her story canvas to bring out the factual detail without impeding the action.

As our expectations are dallied and dangled, we relish this fun, twisting, shock riddled masterpiece that ends way too soon. As Thomas heads towards his fate, we may or may not see him again but hopefully we'll see much more of Antonia (in print at least).

(Ever grateful thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for providing us with a copy for review.)

Further Reading: If this appeals, you've read The Devil in the Marshalsea and you'd like more of the dark side within historical London, we also highly recommend Dodger of the Dials by James Benmore.

Buy The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins by Antonia Hodgson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins by Antonia Hodgson at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins by Antonia Hodgson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins by Antonia Hodgson at Amazon.com.


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