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Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Antonia Hodgson – The Devil in the Marshalsea.

review written and read by showhost august 2015
This was a really interesting kind of who dunnit book set in the debtors prison in London in 1727.  It is indeed  historical fiction with intrigue, suspense and mystery.
Tom Hawkins is a young gentleman rogue who loves to gamble, drink and womanise In London much to his fathers intense anger.  His father is a pastor in the countryside and hoped that Tom would follow him and take his place in the church.
The Marshalsea was a prison for debtors, hell on earth.  there was a small town inside the prison, where money could make your stay more comfortable and buy you food, drink and women plus a better room to stay in.  So those with benefactors were better off than those who were penniless.  There was the Masters side or the common side, where bodies were left to rot, prisoners left to starve to death.  Money could buy you life.  Everyone was corrupt from the warden to the turnkeys.
Gambling gets Tom thrown into the prison but on the masters side thanks to his friend who paid for creature comforts for him.  Tom was put in a room with the notorious and disliked ‘Fleet’ who, it was said, murdered his previous cell mate Cpt.Roberts.  Tom is asked to discover who really did murder Cpt Roberts, and finds himself beaten and tortured and thrown into the common side & chained to the body of a corpse.   Corpses were left to rot until the families could pay for

their release.  No-one can be trusted in Marshalsea as everybody is fighting for their lives.
A lot of the characters in this book were inspired by real characters and the story from real events.  Some of the characters were mentioned but not quite drawn out (like Mack for instance his name was mentioned but I couldn’t remember who or what he was.  Was he relevant or did the author just want to slip the name in because he was a real character?)‘Many of the details of the prison come from John Grano’s diary’.  I can recommend this book to people who like a well written, good historical mystery.  The only thing that could have made it even better would have been an illustration of what they were wearing in that era.  I found myself looking it up on google just to help set the scene.  There is a sequel to this book ‘The Last Confessions of Thomas Hawkins’ , I will def read.

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