Catching the Eagle by Karen Charlton
A writer-friend went to a talk by this author, and told me about this book, which I then bought for Kindle. The author had researched her family tree and found a fascinating story which she then fictionalised. Having done something similar myself I was intrigued to see what this novel was like.
In 1809 a huge amount of money was stolen from a Northumbrian estate. In the subsequent days, labourer Jamie Charlton was seen flashing money around, and was arrested on suspicion of having done the robbery. His brother William perjures himself to get Jamie off, but a while later more evidence emerges and Jamie is rearrested and eventually sentenced to transportation. The novel is told from several viewpoints, primarily William's, who is struggling with his feelings for Jamie's wife. The novel romps along, some great descriptions of the hardships of Georgian provincial jails and pre-industrial revolution countryside. The characters, especially Jamie and William, are particularly well-drawn.
I found this an enjoyable novel with a realistic and satisfying ending. The eagle of the title is a thread which ties the whole book together - it's been seen flying around and there's a reward offered for its capture. Jamie's son strikes up an unusual bond with the bird. It is only finally captured at the end, when Jamie is on his way to London prior to being transported to Australia.