Published on 28th August 2014 by Hodder Paperbacks and available here
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 coffee-houses into 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.
The Devil in the Marshalsea is the first in a historical crime series by Antonia Hodgson, featuring Tom Hawkins. Set in 1727 in the debtor’s prison Marshalsea in London, it is all about the hunt for a killer!
Imagine owing money to creditors and falling on hard times. In 1727, you would be sent to a debtor’s prison, which could possibly be the death of you. Debtor’s prisons were run for profit and prisoners were expected to pay for meals and accommodation. They were forced to negotiate their debts and treated as criminals. Social hierarchies were very much in existence, with rooms for the ‘masters’ who could pay and the ‘common’ cattle class for those who could not. Death and torture were a part of life. Into this setting, comes Tom Hawkins. Hawkins is your eighteenth century lad; a bloke into women, booze and gambling. His only means of escape from this hellish place is to solve a murder. A man is said to be haunting the place, the ghost of Captain Roberts. Roberts was murdered and his room mate is the prime suspect. Hawkins is soon risking his life, in a place where danger is round every corner and it is impossible to know who to trust.
Based on what actually took place in the Marshalsea Debtor’s Prison, Hodgson takes us on a marvellous and terrifying journey. Hodgson creates this amazing world, where you can imagine the depravity and insanitary conditions. Tom Hawkins must use all of his cunning, leave his naivety behind and see beneath the grime and the deception. There is something about him, that charms and captivates. At heart, he is a good man. He suffers and he cares. This is a mystery, with a prison full of suspects and the clock ticking.
Absolutely enjoyable and incredibly well paced. I raced through this, completely addicted to the gritty, down to earth feel of a nightmarish prison and eighteenth century life. Thomas Hawkins has a new fan in me! Recommended.