Sydney, Australia in 1829 was not a friendly place. Gabriel Carver, however, has made his situation as best he can. A convict himself, Gabriel volunteered to be the hangman of Sydney prison and made a place for himself in the penal colony. He lives a peaceful enough life until a female convict, Meg Harper enters the prison and asks for him. The woman is a former acquaintance of Carver's and wants him to prove her innocence in killing her master in return for keeping a secret about his past. Carver sets out on a mission to find out who really killed Ned Staines. While on the trail of Ned's real killer, Carver is pulled into the mystery of the "Rat's Line" a way back home for felons that have been condemned to the island and the people who protect it.
A Hangman for Ghosts took me into the dangerous world of Sydney in the early 19th century. I had no idea of how the penal colonies worked, the danger, or that convicts were often released back into Australian society. This book did take me a while to get into. Carver was a difficult character for me to care for. It wasn't until I learned of his passage to Australia and the secret he was harboring that I felt more attached to him. It also became clear why Carver, a convict and hangman seemed to have such a knack for detective work and crime solving, often seeing things that the judges have missed when condemning people for a crime. The suspense intensified as Carver was led on a chase to the Rat's Line. As he delved deeper into this hidden passage home the danger swelled and Carver ability to navigate the Australian underbelly was tested ending with a very surprising suspect. Overall, an interesting look into life for a convict in Australia's penal colonies with an exciting mystery.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
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Andrei Baltakmens was born in Christchurch, New Zealand, of Latvian descent. He has a Ph.D. in English literature, focused on Charles Dickens and Victorian urban mysteries.
His first novel, The Battleship Regal, was published in New Zealand in 1996. His short fiction has appeared in various literary journals, and his first historical mystery, The Raven’s Seal, was published in 2012.
Since 2004, he has lived in Ithaca, New York and Brisbane, Australia, where he recently completed a doctorate in Creative Writing at The University of Queensland. He now lives in Palo Alto, California, with his wife and son, and works for Stanford University as an instructional designer.