Turpin’s Assassin, by Richard Foreman

Amie Bawa

The bestselling author has written a new novel about the famous highwayman.
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The bestselling novelist Richard Foreman, who usually writes about ancient Rome and the medieval period, brings the man and legend of Dick Turpin to life in the first book of a new, notable series, Turpin’s Assassin.

The book opens with an exciting highway robbery. The reader is immediately captivated by Turpin.

To avoid capture, Turpin hides behind the façade of his alias ‘John Palmer.’ Turpin is torn by issues of identity and belonging. As accomplished an outlaw as he may be, he is far from a good husband. His wife, Elizabeth, remains dutiful and kind.

Foreman exacerbates the couple’s strained relationship through Turpin’s affair with a mistress, Marie Harley. A mesmerising actress, both beautiful and guileful, Marie is a character worthy of her own novel. She also provided a counterpoint to Elizabeth.

The story is concerned with intrigue and a sense of adventure, as well as the human story of Turpin. We are introduced to Pierre Vergier, a French assassin, who we can both compare and contract with the highwayman. Tension is built as the plot develops, and I must confess that I did not see a certain twist coming.

Foreman is particularly successful in creating a vivid, realistic setting in relation to eighteenth-century London. The author skilfully juxtaposes the affluence of London with its darker alleyways. The book isn’t shy about highlighting the criminality, poverty, alcoholism, prostitution, and venereal disease that plagued the capital during the period.

Turpin’s Assassin is a smart piece of historical fiction, interweaving crime, history and romance. The novel is also not short of a comical edge. The prose is peppered with witty one-liners and sarcastic dialogue. Foreman’s Turpin is a dark, brooding yet humane and gripping character – the hero, or anti-hero, of one of the paciest and most enjoyable novels you will read this year.