Set around the turn of the 19th Century, this is the story of a captain who loses his command of a merchant ship after shooting someone who was attacking one of his crew. Pascoe, the captain, is tried for the shooting, and almost found guilty, because all the witnesses have been got at by the notorious Boylin, who has it in for Pascoe after suffering a lashing when he was crewing Pascoe's ship. Sam Hart, a friendly tradesman, volunteers evidence that saves Pascoe from the gallows, and Pascoe and the Hart are subsequently recruited to an organisation that's just been set up to police the Thames, where robbery from ships delivering their cargo is endemic.
This is sort of contemporaneous with Sharpe, so I'd hoped for a similar swash-buckling tale, but it was extremely dull, and predictable. Characters are unmemorable, cliches are employed, and excitement is missing.
The story has Pascoe and Hart investigating crimes which they suspect/know Boylin is involved with, and Boylin knocking off various witnesses along the way. Pascoe embarks on a relationship with a nurse, who, it turns out, was previously involved with Boylin and had her life ruined by him. A young boy who Pascoe befriends dies in an apparent accident which turns out to have been arranged by Boylin. Sam reveals that he had previously been engaged, but his fiancee died after being forced into prostitution by - surprise! Boylin. This Boylin is obviously a nasty piece of work. If they could get rid of him it seems likely there'd be no evil left in the world.
The audiobook had a relatively short final CD, so it ended sooner than I'd expected. What happens at the end is that they capture Boylin and have him in jail, but all the potential witnesses have been killed, so their only chance is to persuade him to confess. So they do. The end.
As I was reading the book I suspected that perhaps it was the setup for a series, and I see now that this book is referred to as "Tom Pascoe (1)". I definitely won't be reading any of the others though. I think the author commits the sin of setting out to write a book that will be the first in a series, rather than putting his all into a novel that can stand on its own feet. This is in stark contrast to the first Bill Slider book, which was written as a stand-alone novel that the author subsequently decided would be worth writing a sequel to.
Completed : 10-Apr-2012 (audiobook)