Perfect Gallows

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

PERFECT GALLOWS is set alternately in wartime Great Britain and 1986. The protagonist seems sometimes to be young Andrew Wragge, sometimes Adrian Waring, the part of Andrew who comes to dominate his personality. Two stories thus unfold: the events of 1944, when Andrew, an aspiring actor, was summoned by his great-granduncle Albert Wragge to audition for the real-life role of heir to his vast estate, bought with the South African gold he mined in his youth, and thirty-eight years later, as the aging Adrian is finally moved to face his past and the self he left behind.

Adrian has achieved his long-cherished dream of becoming a great actor, but to fuel the magic of his art he has had to sacrifice his own need for love and the needs of those foolish enough to love him. The greatest sacrifice, however, was of the part of him who was once Andrew Wragge. PERFECT GALLOWS traces the events of the winter of 1944, when the shape of Adrian’s life would evolve. An old grudge, a bitter deed, promises made and broken, a murder, and a witch’s curse come together to create the mystery that is Adrian Waring. Peter Dickinson’s complex and suspenseful tale takes the reader on an elegantly circular journey into a long-passed era and into the strangely divided mind of a man.