Following the hanging of his partner in crime Willie Burke, William Hare (having been offered immunity from prosecution) is set free and put on a coach to Carlisle. But the people of Edinburgh are unhappy that such a vile individual has escaped his crimes and Hare soon recognises the need to disappear if he is to stay in one piece. Meanwhile, a certain Lord Beckford has a particular interest in Mr Hare and employs thief-catcher Percy Speed to track down the infamous killer.
Ever since writing a stage play about Messrs Burke and Hare (The Body in the Bag), I’ve been fascinated by what became of the surviving murderer, and whether, as rumours suggest, he succumbed to the lynch-mob justice of an angry community, or managed to evade his pursuers and make a new life for himself. This book does a stirling job in imagining the continuing tale of the notorious Hare, as he strikes out for Ireland. Taking up with the mute Hannah, he struggles to make ends meet until an enthusiastic churchman sees possibilities in Hare for engaging his parishioners.
The story alternates between Hare’s account of his adventures and that of his tracker, Percy Speed, while the author conjures up a series of wonderfully detailed and realistic settings for his tale. The writing is superb, packed with believable and occasionally despicable characters. drawing the reader in as the chase warms up. I particularly liked the inclusion of Thomas De Quincey, whose essay ‘On Murder Considered as one of the Fine Arts’ is often cited by authors writing on the topic of murder.
This is a clever and imaginative book that will thrill anyone who has ever wondered what became of the villain known as William Hare.
Back to the Blog