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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
In Bailed Up by Michael Beashel, Irish stonemason Gerry Riordan seeks approval from Anne Donovan's father, James Donovan, to marry her. While working on crafting doors for St. Mary's Cathedral, Donovan negotiates a contract with Sean Hughes, hiring Dougal Simpson, who conceals his ties to the illegal Ribbon Men. Gerry is wrongly accused of stealing golden tabernacle doors after an accident. He is found guilty and transported to NSW as a convict, where he will serve a life sentence of hard labor. Anne, unaware of her impending trip to Europe for education, is distraught by Gerry's unjust conviction. As new leads point in directions where Gerry has been framed, Anne's belief that he is lost forever has a horrific impact on her life. She moves on but is always looking back, as renewed investigations into involvement with the Cork crimes could get Gerry off the chain gang and into some semblance of a normal life.
“A note supposedly written in the murder victim’s hand, incriminating Gerry, turns out to be a forgery." Michael Beashel gifts readers with a fully immersive experience and an armchair journey into the past with his novel Bailed Up, set in the early 19th century. The mystery related to Gerry's wrongful conviction might be the overriding plot, but it also reflects the real-life injustices and legal processes of the time and even now. Beashel imparts a real authenticity to all the settings, the standout for me being the construction of the Great North Road and the conditions of convicts and overseers. He leverages authenticity with historical terminology that is bang-on in everything from the legal system to convict life and the construction projects of the time. The writing is concise and clean, and for a historical novel that could also be easily categorized as classic literary fiction, the prose is accessible. The ending was different from what I expected but satisfying in how realistic it would have likely been. This fourth installment of the Australian Sandstone series shows Beashel moving forward from strength to strength. Very highly recommended.