WINNER OF THE CWA HISTORICAL DAGGER AWARD 2014.
Longlisted for the John Creasey Dagger Award for best debut crime novel of 2014.
London, 1727 - and Tom Hawkins is about to fall from his heaven of card games, brothels, and coffeehouses 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 rutheless 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.
A twisting mystery, a dazzling evocation of early 18th-Century London, The Devil in the Marshalsea is a thrilling debut novel full of intrigue and suspense.
©2014 Antonia Hodgson (P)2014 Hodder & Stoughton
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"One of the best audio books I've chosen recently"
I liked both the naive but brave and resourceful narrator and his enigmatic cell mate, Fleet. They reminded me a bit of Davy and Long John Silver in Treasure Island.
This was a an atmospheric novel which also had plenty of suspense and twists and turns. I thought it was very well written and researched. Who knew that the old Marshalsea operated like a kind of concentration camp, killing poor people through brutality and starvation in the plain centre of London? Unlike the previous reviewer, I didn't find it at all repetitive, though that's often a criticism I make of audiobooks. I thought the narrator was great and didn't mind the sound effect either!
"Promising but flawed."
This is very well researched and an enjoyable, fast-paced story but I felt the writing lacked depth and would have benefited from better editing . It was sufficiently engaging however, for me to try the next in the series providing Audible sorts out the sound track. My listening enjoyment of the book was really marred and my patience sorely tried by the awful and too often repeated musical refrain.
The standout character for me was not the hero,Tom, but Samuel Fleet, a sophisticated and genuinely enigmatic character who I wished has been at the heart of this novel and indeed in future books in the series. I particularly liked the selected bibliography of source materials at the end and the integration of real and imagined characters.
gripping, atmospheric, detailed
good story, but too many repeats of narration which weren't deleted, lack of editing became annoying through the course of the book
"Brilliant book let down a little by the editing"
Dirty smelly history
The War of the Roses trilogy by Iggulden - same gritty realism you can almost smell with well drawn characters.
Not his fault - the recording was badly done - first one ever - I could hear him swallowing; there were a number of repeats, one of which even included his apology as he re- read it. I actuallly liked him as a narrator.
I found the beginning rather slow and was not totally convinced; but once he got to the prison I was hooked and could have listened to it in one go
First time I have experienced this - but poor editing, as mentioned, the narrator swallowing and lines repeated in error. I perservered as I was enjoying the book and the narrator. I wanted to give it 5 stars for performance but could not - though not the narrators fault.
"Life in a London debtors prison"
I got this as recommended by Richard and Judy bookclub.
This tale is set in 1727 London and is the debut novel of Antonia Hodgson. The description is very atmospheric and listening to it as an audiobook aided the atmosphere as the eery music that went with it with its clinking and clanging was quite scary.
Tom Hawkins is his own worst enemy drawing trouble to himself. Despite this though he has an inherent decency and sense of fairness. Tom fought with his parson father leaving home seeking the company of prostitutes and alcohol, resulting in his being penniless and living on his wits in London. He builds up debts he cannot pay so will be put in a debtors prison called the Marshalsea.
As a gambler he is skilled and he manages to raise enough money to keep him out of the Marshals. He is then attacked and the money stolen so ends up in prison anyway.
I feel this novel was well researched and in prison we meet many squalid unsavoury characters some very dangerous indeed. The Head Keeper William Acton is himself a murderer allowed to choose his victims at his pleasure. The reader witnesses poverty extreme cruelty and brutality up close and personal. Money is the currency which can make or break an individual despite it being a debtors prison. The prison is divided into two sides, the Masters side where you have a chance of staying alive or the Common side where disease including Smallpox is rife and chances of dying a slow and painful death are pretty much guaranteed.
Tom is taken under the patronage of Samuel Fleet whose recent cell mate Captain Roberts was murdered. Fleet was considered the culprit. Captain Roberts wife is haunting the prison trying to get justice for her husband. Tom is offered freedom if he discovers who murdered Roberts.
As per usual there are a multitude of suspects, false clues and leads. However as well as being a murder mystery this book is historically and factually based so is for the historian also.
I enjoyed the writing and how the novel progressed. I enjoyed the ending finding it quite surprising. I think this is suitable for readers interested in murder mysteries, historical prison life, with a little period drama thrown in.
"A very good story, spoilt by unnecessary music."
Sadly no. Every chapter begins and ends with the same tedious violin refrain. This becomes very irritating because: it sounds slightly out of tune, it is repeated with a silent gap in between, and really fails to enhance the story.
I suggest that it's edited out.
"Highly enjoyable historic novel"
I particularly enjoyed the end of chapter sound effects.
The story is simple to follow whilst being steeped in true settings. It brings to life the infamous debtors prison whilst being a more quaint "whodunnit"
Some times the audio skips and repeats itself. The narrator coughs and repeats himself once or twice - this should be edited out! If no t for this performance would have been 5 stars
"Repetitions a problem"
The story is good and well read. My problem was the sloppy technical cutting. The recording annoyingly repeated passages in at least 4 places through the book.
This unfortunately destroyed a great listen.
"Atmospheric and real"
For me, the 1700's are a bit of a closed century. Yes, I know it was the start of science and enlightenment but I've never been that keen on that time thinking it a tad squalid. This book has made me make a revisit although I still think it a brutal, nasty time. I was intrigued by the Marshalsea itself - enough to look up its history. I grew very fond of our 'hero' Thomas - a flawed and all too human character but I fell for Samuel Fleet! For me, there are too many underdeveloped characters. They come in - stay a while and then just disappear and there are a lot of them! However, the writing is tight and the story, all set in a few days, fair romps along. The narration is good but let down badly by the editing. At one point the narrator gets it slightly wrong, apologises and starts again. There were a couple of repetitions as well. Others have mentioned the 'music', To being with this really grated on me but I got used to it and overall I think it added to the atmosphere.
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