SOURCE: A GoodReads win.
London, 1727 - and Tom Hawkins is about to fall from his heaven of card games, brothels and coffee-houses to the hell of a debtors' prison.
The Marshalsea is a savage world of its own, with simple rules: those with family or friends who can lend them a little money may survive in relative comfort. Those with none will starve in squalor and disease. And those who try to escape will suffer a gruesome fate at the hands of the gaol's ruthless governor and his cronies.
The trouble is, Tom Hawkins has never been good at following rules - even simple ones. And the recent grisly murder of a debtor, Captain Roberts, has brought further terror to the gaol. While the Captain's beautiful widow cries for justice, the finger of suspicion points only one way: to the sly, enigmatic figure of Samuel Fleet.
Some call Fleet a devil, a man to avoid at all costs. But Tom Hawkins is sharing his cell. Soon, Tom's choice is clear: get to the truth of the murder - or be the next to die.
...... GoodReads description.
FIRST SENTENCE/ MEMORABLE MOMENT: A paperback Uncorrected Proof Copy. I've been asked not to use any quotes. Publication dates are 27th March for the hardback copy and 11th September for the paperback.
MY THOUGHTS: Undecided as how exactly to rate this debut novel. As the first in a planned series of crime novels set in the 18th century I felt The Devil In The Marshalsea worked incredibly well as a historical/social novel (for those sites requiring a star rating, a solid five stars) but (though still a most respectable three point five stars) not quite so well as a 'crime thriller'/'whodunnit'. And as for the romantic aspect of the novel? Very much a secondary feature of the book, whilst I didn't think it distracted from the story nor did it particularly add anything.
Obviously meticulously researched. Awash with wonderfully well drawn characters, many of them real, others loosely based on actual individuals.
Given that the author states 'the conditions described are taken from first-hand accounts' though 'if anything the reality was even worse' one is left in no doubt as to just how grim things must have been for the men, women and children (yes, children) incarcerated in what can only be described as the living hell so beautifully re-created here.
Highly readable. Such is the depth of Antonia Hodgson's feel for the period that she brings the people and places to life. This is definitely a series of books I'll be keeping a look out for.
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