2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Interesting and enjoyable,
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This review is from: The Thief-Taker: Memoirs of a Bow Street Runner (Mass Market Paperback)
In 1748 the Bow Street Runners were set up at the Bow Street magistrates court, at the instigation of Sir Henry Fielding, playright and author (Tom Jones, the book not the Welsh singer!) and his brother John a magistrate. The brothers were so concerned at the rise of crime in London that they petitioned Parliament for an official policing force. Prior to the Runners, there was no official police force in Britain, unlike other countries. The constables were merely local volunteers. The gentry and aristocrates felt it was the duty of the populace to give up someone guilty of a crime to the local magistrate. A noble thought in theory. However, in practice they had reckoned without loyalty, love, friendship, family feeling and of course fear.
The Runners were only responsible for policing London and were not a nationwide force. They worked on a commission basis, being paid for an arrest and then for a guilty conviction. They did however, take on private investigation commissions from private individuals both in London and without. They were in effect the forerunners of the modern police detective.
Here, we have Henry Morton, a Runner of outstanding honest repution, who takes on a private investigation into the death of a young man of unpeachable reputation. Who had, according to the doctor who examined him, died due to vomiting on an excess of alcohol and who earlier in the evening had been seen at a tavern of ill-repute. Morton disagrees with doctor and thinks that the young man has been poisoned.
Morton is drawn into a complicated case involving the Elgin Marbles, a murder, a duel, a tavern which is also a brothel selling child prostitutes, a missing note, the hanging of a man and his wife who protest their innocence and say that the Runners set them up, a hostile mob, the dead man's mysterious fiance and her brother, corrupt Runners, thugs trying to kill him and the threat of the noose for Morton himself. At the back of this the population waits on tenderhooks for news about the battle of Waterloo (1815).
Extremely interesting read.