The Last Horseman

Written by David Gilman
Review by Lisa Redmond

David Gilman’s new novel is packed full of intrigue, adventure and excitement. The tale opens in Dublin in 1899 with American Joseph Radcliffe, lawyer and former soldier. Unafraid to represent radical young men who face the noose as a result of their Fenian beliefs, Radcliffe is a thorn in the side of the British establishment. When his young son runs away from boarding school Radcliffe gets information that he has followed some of his friends in the Irish Regiments to the war in South Africa, so he sets off after him along with his old friend and army comrade Benjamin Pierce. They will need every skill they learned in the “Indian Wars” in order to track Edward down.

Unfolding alongside this story is 16-year-old Edward’s tale of what he hopes will be a grand adventure, and the story of Sheenagh, a prostitute on the run for passing information from the Fenian Brotherhood to the British Army. The writing is skillful, and while the story is a page turner full of adventure, there are a number of moments in which we are reminded that though most of the characters are fictional, the horror of this war was not. Gilman remains neutral in his opinions while still managing to get under the skin of his characters and, like all the best historical fiction, it is the characters and how they play off each other that really makes the story come alive. A perfect read for fans of Bernard Cornwell.