Title: Highwayman: War’s End
Author: Michael Arnold
Published by: Sharpe Books
Publication date: 24th March 2020
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Private Collection
For Major Samson Lyle, former solider in Cromwell’s Roundhead army turned infamous outlaw, the Ironside Highwayman, trouble is never far away. It even follows him to the graveside of his beloved surrogate mother, Ursula.
When a thief steals a sacred bible from a band of mercenary sailors, their leader, the ruthless gun captain Marek, believes that Lyle is the culprit and exacts revenge by taking Ursula’s son hostage. Lyle and his comrades, his trusted young ward Bella and the irascible former smuggler Eustace Grumm, must retrieve the bible to exchange for the boy’s life.
To save an innocent and defeat Marek, the Ironside Highwayman must ride again.
Lyle and his companions track the Bible and its seven-fingered thief, Whisler, across England until he is captured by the highwayman’s old nemesis, Colonel John Maddocks. But not all is as seems.
Conflict breeds treachery, as well as loyalty.
Can the highwayman defeat his new enemy while avoiding the bloodlust of his old one?
As with the previous novella in the series, I picked this up in a charity shop in Louth and binge read all three in a row.
The third, and final, instalment in the Highwayman series by Michael Arnold. Featuring ex-soldier turned Highwayman, Lyle Samson. Deserting the army when things became to bloody and violent in Ireland, hunted by the British Army and returning home to find his wife murdered, Lyle is hellbent on revenge against his former Masters – in any way possible. Accused of theft, Lyle and his faithful companions get caught up in a web of intrigue they need to carefully navigate their way out of.
Highwayman: War’s End is the longest of the Highwayman novellas, but still offers a fast-paced, quick read. The novella goes into a bit more detail in terms of plot; focusing on the mystery aspect as much as the actions and character-building narratives. The back stories are once again reiterated to the reader, allowing new readers to come into the series with this as an entry point; but I do recommend reading the previous novels too because they’re just as good. Back alongside the wonderous lead character, Samson Lyle are his young ward Bella and former-smuggler, Eustace Grumm. They bring with them the usual flair and character quirks that pack these novella’s with so much personality.
The narrative of this book in the series went so much deeper than the other two; there’s more swash-buckling bravado on offer, but also a sprinkling of mystery. Lyle is accused of organising the theft of a bible from the wandering gun-Captain Marek, a much-feared individual for his ruthlessness. When he comes to an agreement to retrieve the Bible, Marek takes an innocent man hostage and it’s a race against the clock to find out who actually stole the bible and return it.
On board are the usual foes that Lyle must outfox, giving the novella’s main characters multiple layers of threat and the climax is a nail-biter in terms of tension. The journey along the way doesn’t fare much better for the cuticles either! The novel is filled with nerve-wracking action scenes that lead the reader wondering if the Highwayman and his accomplices will make it through the day alive.
While short, these novellas have been a great introduction to a new-to-me author, that I shall be on the lookout for in the future. They’re wonderfully paced, exciting and offer a great sense of escapism, all while painting a picture of 1600s Britain. I’ve enjoyed the characters immensely and I am forever hopeful that the Highwayman will ride again.
A fantastic series of novellas that have introduced me to a new author. Wonderful scenes of swash-buckling set amidst dreary 1600s Britain. Fantastically written, in-depth characters that I would be very eager to read even more about. Brilliant plot, full of action and intrigue.
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