AT A Dickensian riverside pub in Wapping a charismatic ex-policeman gazes out at the swinging hangman’s rope which is kept for the tourist trade.
Patrick Easter, who spent 30 years in the Met, is intelligent and bookish and might well have been the model for PD James’ copper-cum-writer Adam Dalgliesh.
The occasion is the launch party for his series featuring former naval officer Tom Pascoe.
While in 2011 Easter is looking at the misty glimmer of Canary Wharf in the distance, his hero would have seen a very different view of the Thames. Set in 1798 it’s a historical thriller brimming with atmosphere and colour and is an exhilarating debut.
In the Port of London in the 18th century a ruthless figure is the lynchpin of many illegal activities in the bustling, dirty capital. Boylin’s face is mutilated by lime and his back bears the scars from the lashes he received at a naval court martial.
He is a man burning with hatred, all directed against the person he considers responsible for his blighted existence: river surveyor Pascoe, who works for the newly formed marine police. Pascoe has been charged with unearthing reasons for the fall in government revenue which is crippling Britain’s capacity to wage war against France (as well as the country’s dealings with a mutinous Ireland).
It’s soon apparent Pascoe’s old adversary is at the heart of things and the bitter antipathy between them is to spill over into conflict that will affect the naval and military fate of a nation.
Rarely has a modern novelist evoked the fascinating London of this era (with its murderous docklands, crowded river and sinister narrow streets) with such pungency and vividness as Easter does here, though perhaps the nautical glossary won’t be used by many readers.
We’ve a plethora of historical crime writers producing strong work now but what distinguishes Easter is the skill with which he delineates the clash between his two strong-willed protagonists, who fairly leap off the page and that’s not to forget the Thames itself, almost a major character in the novel.
Readers will be eager to travel back to the 18th century to take another dangerous river trip in the company of Easter’s doughty nautical hero.
THE WATERMEN BY PATRICK EASTER QUERCUS, £14.99
Read more: http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/243575/-THE-WATERMEN-by-Patrick-Easter-Quercus-14-99-THE-WATERMEN-by-Patrick-Easter-Quercus-14-99#ixzz1KzqqPu5a