The Bow Street Runners, generally accepted as London’s first professional police force, was founded in 1749 and operated in London until 1839, when the organization was disbanded. To date, there have been, most notably, two popular Bow Street Runner series — the “Blackstone” historical thrillers by Richard Falkirk and Derek Lambert (in the 1970s), and seven novels written by Ben Healey under the penname Jeremy Sturrock, during a similar period. However, there appears to be a new kid on the block.
James McGee begins his runner series with Hawkwood, titled for his continuing hero. The story is set in 1811, when Matthew Hawkwood is called in to investigate a stagecoach robbery resulting in a double murder, a tragedy for those involved, but not an uncommon crime for the times. We immediately learn that Hawkwood has a reputation — for making trouble, for being a ladies’ man, for using unorthodox methods, but he is also generally accepted as the best man for the job at hand. A coachman has been killed when he tried to reach for his weapon, but the second victim turns out to be a naval courier who may have been carrying documents important to national security. Documents that have been taken by the thieves, their intentions mystifying all. Who do you call? Hawkwood, of course.
It’s this winning and familiar setup that many readers have enjoyed in novels featuring James Bond and other macho heroes. The rogue expert who is better than anyone at his job, but unpredictable and even a little dangerous. We expect the hero to get his man and save the day. But it’s the fun of following him on the chase that holds our interest. McGee includes sufficient historical details to add color but not overwhelm the casual reader. This is a solid beginning for a light read and entertaining series.