Sparrowhawk (2010) is a novella by Paul Finch set during the Christmas season of 1843 England. It follows John Sparrowhawk, a veteran who served with the British Empire during the Afghan War. Despite his military heroics, Sparrowhawk’s life spiraled into turmoil afterwards. His wife died while he was away, and his subsequent gambling landed him in debtor’s prison with little chance of buying his way free. This situation changes with the unexpected appearance of an attractive, wealthy woman named Miss Evangeline at the prison. She’s sought him out to offer him a job that will pay all his debts and more. This job requires him to guard a man against three assailants who will separately arrive during the month of December. The identity of this man he’s charged to protect is not revealed to Sparrowhawk, and he’s under strict orders to keep his vigil a secret. With little other options available to him, he accepts the strange assignment despite his trepidations.
From that point on, Sparrowhawk keeps a nightly vigil outside the house of this man about which he knows nothing. He likewise has no information regarding the trio of threats he’s supposed to be guarding against. When they do begin to show up one-by-one, they are supernatural in nature and force him to confront the tumultuous life he’s led and the struggles he’s had to endure. If you’re thinking, as I initially did, that these would be the three Christmas ghosts from Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, you’d be wrong, although some analogies with them can be drawn. They are each unique, unsettling entities with their own set of powers and peculiarities.
The action scenes here are top-notch as Sparrowhawk’s combat experience is brought bare, often by way of the Greener rifle he keeps concealed under his long overcoat. The weight of all the loss he’s endured hangs heavy on Sparrowhawk as he struggles to accomplish his task which proves far more taxing than he could have expected. Miss Evangeline proves an important character as well. She’s strong, independent, knowledgeable and insightful. The back-and-forth conversations between her and the embittered Sparrowhawk are nuanced as he strives to gain additional information from her regarding his assignment and she works to keep him focused on completing it.
Paul Finch is a fantastic writer, so anytime his name is attached to a story or a novel, it’s sure to be a treat, and this book is no exception. It’s a great, pulpy read that’s perfect for the Christmas season and which pairs well with A Christmas Carol.
Paul Finch’s Website: https://www.paulfinchauthor.com/blog
Reviewed by Matt Cowan