A tale of Van Diemen's Land in the 1840s, this tells the fact-based story of Matthew Brady, an escaped convict who became known as the Tasmanian ""Robin Hood of Bushrangers."" Shipped to the Australian penal colony in 1820 (a seven-year sentence for stealing foodstuffs), Brady's a nonviolent Christian with a deep conscience. During his first years as a slave-convict, he receives 450 lashes for various short-term escapes; but then, against his will, he joins some runaways (perhaps to save them) and in an open boat rows from Macquarie Harbour past Hell's Gate and 200 miles to Hobart town. Most of the runaways are recaptured early, and Brady takes charge of the five left, as they enter a life of bushranging and perpetual flight from pursuit. Three more are caught, leaving just Brady and tiger-snake McCabe. When Brady is recaptured, few readers will forget his plunging his hands into a fire to burn off his cloth bindings and escape yet again. He wakes up four days later to find himself being cared for by a young, poetry-reading widow in the bush who lives alone to care for wounded animals. A clergyman's daughter, she believes only in ""a force, like fire or sunlight, that was present in all forms of life."" To save her from a jail sentence, he lights out once more, becomes renowned among the island poor, becomes a half-demented murderer himself, is caught and hung. Lively and cruel, with a likable, hard-bitten hero.