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The Devil in the Marshalsea Hardcover – 27 Mar 2014

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (27 Mar. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1444775413
  • ISBN-13: 978-1444775419
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 3.6 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (145 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 369,988 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


I really did like this - it gives a wonderfully convincing picture of the seamier side of eighteenth-century life. (The novel is a sort of Tom Jones Noir, I suppose.) The narrative whips along. The picture of the Marshalsea is quite chilling. Antonia Hodgson has a real feel for how people thought and spoke at the time - and, God knows, that's a rare talent. I very much look forward to discovering what Tom Hawkins does next - I imagine it won't be a career in holy orders. (Andrew Taylor)

Hodgson's utterly compelling debut is fiendishly plotted and dripping with atmosphere. I cannot wait for Tom Hawkins' next adventure. (Mark Billingham)

'A hugely enjoyable and fast-paced story which takes the reader into the dark world of Georgian crime. The vividly drawn cast of characters is worthy of Dickens himself.' (Tracy Borman)

Antonia Hodgson's London of 1727 offers that rare achievement in historical fiction: a time and place suspensefully different from our own, yet real. THE DEVIL IN THE MARSHALSEA reminds us at every turn that we ourselves may not have evolved far from its world of debtors and creditors, crime and generosity, appetite and pathos. A damn'd good read. (Elizabeth Kostova, internationally bestselling author of THE HISTORIAN)

This is a wonderfully entertaining novel, twisty and claustrophobic as an underground maze. The real-life nightmare of the Marshalsea is the perfect setting for Hodgson's tale of skulduggery, betrayal and murder. (Maria McCann, bestselling author of AS MEAT LOVES SALT and THE WILDING)

A superb debut, tense and atmospheric, that beautifully evokes the dark underbelly of 18th century London. I was gripped. (Saul David)

Historical fiction just doesn't get any better than this. THE DEVIL IN THE MARSHALSEA offers up a riveting, fast-paced story, a richness of tone and a depth of detail that would put most academics to shame. And good Tom Hawkins is one of the best protagonists to come along in years. Magnificent! (Jeffery Deaver)

A perfectly realised scary and exciting world; this is a book to lose yourself in. (Jenny Colgan)

A book to be read by candlelight: part romance, part social history . . . and a lesson in evil. (John Taylor (Duran Duran))

Deliciously dark and twisted, THE DEVIL IN THE MARSHALSEA is a back-stabbing, blood-curdling, cut-throat murder mystery that lights a candle to a wicked and thrilling moment in history. A heart-pounding labyrinth of dead ends, wrong turns, grisly betrayals and intrepid souls, it is a rich and powerful evocation of eighteenth-century London in all its stinking glory. Marvellous. (Victoria Fox)

Superbly written, historically accurate, always convincing and often quite chilling . . . [Hodgson] has an amazing feel and understanding for how people thought and spoke, an absolute necessity for the genre not always strictly adhered to, and a broad enough mind to chronicle its excesses rather than sensationalise them . . . This magnificent story, part social history, an exploration of many faces of evil, with a genuine romantic, if naive, hero of a type I had thought long dead, set in a fast-moving, exciting and genuinely frightening world, is a book to savour. There are enough twists and dead ends to satisfy the most critical and with all the action centred on a few days, the pace is relentless. This is an absolutely superb debut novel. (Crime Review)

THE DEVIL IN THE MARSHALSEA really is something new in the world of historical crime fiction. Such is the detail and atmosphere of Hodgson's writing that at times she even rivals Dickens. Lovers of historical crime need to keep a weather eye on Ms Hodgson. (Daily Express)

Hodgson has a knack for convincing dialogue that crackles with period cadence and flavour.

There are enough plot twists to fill an upturned three-corner hat and a cast of memorable and believable inmates, good and bad. This is a riveting historical thriller that's finely crafted and difficult to put down.

(Daily Mail)

It is the mesh of lies and duplicity that draws you into this brilliant first novel. (The Times)

[A] satisfyingly convoluted debut crime story . . . an enjoyable and well-constructed novel. (The Sunday Times)

The Marshalsea debtors' prison . . . is brought to gruesome life in this highly accomplished first novel. The appalling environment springs to life in Antonia Hodgson's clear, direct prose and her rendering of 18th-century conversation is convincing . . . a remarkably good debut. (Literary Review)

A stonker of a debut novel. This is hist fict at its finest, appealing to those of us who hanker after offerings from people like Bernard Cornwell and Andrew Pepper and demonstrating that Antonia is at least as good. For when we step into the 18th century London of 25 year old Tom Hawkins, we step into a Hogarth etching. The sights and smells are all there even before we get to Marshalsea prison. In fact it's evoked well enough to make us careful where we put our feet . . . Rarely has fear, filth and paranoia been so entertaining. (The Bookbag)

Cleverly plotted, fast paced and scarily real. (Choice)

London in the 1720s and the debts of fast-living rake Tom Hawkins land him in the Marshalsea, one of the most dangerous and corrupt prisons in British history, brought to vivid and detailed life by Hodgson. When a prisoner is murdered, Tom could early his freedom if he identifies the killer, but it means he must put his own life on the line. (Sunday Express)

Something new in the world of historical crime fiction, with mesmerising detail and atmosphere. (Financial Times)

Marshalsea is anything but boring. Hodgson takes Georgian London's seedy underbelly and brings it to life in the pages of her book. There is no "filler" in this novel, yet the descriptions are still detailed and vibrant. Hodgson has a natural talent for writing. The words flow seamlessly off the page and the story is captivating. She is a brilliant storyteller with a gift for weaving an amazing tale. Nothing feels forced, or overly complicated. The charm of the book is in its simplicity; she is just telling a tale without trying too hard to make it clever.

The Devil in the Marshalsea had me glued to the pages well into the wee hours of the night. I haven't had that happen in a long time. That's what makes the difference between a great novel and an amazing novel: the one you can't put down, and that is this book.

(Early Modern England)

[A] splendid debut . . . Impeccably researched and astonishingly atmospheric, with time past evoked so strongly that one can almost smell it, this is a truly spellbinding tale. (Laura Wilson Guardian)

Book Description

A murderer on the loose . . . in prison.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Robert Archer VINE VOICE on 13 Mar. 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a first novel in what will hopefully be a long series. All the ingredients are here to make for an exciting and entertaining series set in C18th London.
Tom Hawkins, an adventurer living on his wits, a `gentleman` in the world of card games and low living is sent to the Marshalsea debtors` prison. Here his world of easy come and go is destroyed. Run as a profitable enterprise for the benefit of Sir Philip Meadows it is a stinking cess pit in Southwark governed by the brutal ex-butcher William Acton. There has been a murder in the prison and Tom is charged with finding the murderer in return for his freedom.
The plot twists and turns as Tom struggles to retain his health and senses in the pestilent prison confines. As bad as it is his visit to the `Common Side`, where the dead are pitilessly dragged out and left for their families to pay for the bodies, shows him an image of hell on earth-a fate he later experiences for himself.
Never knowing who to trust and constantly living in fear of a daily barbarity Tom stumbles into solving the mystery. Along the way he finds Kitty, a servant girl who shows him that humanity can exist in even the most vile conditions.
The plotting and the setting of the story are compelling reading. Looking forward to the next story already.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By keithwillb on 29 Oct. 2014
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed the book, but did not rush to read it daily. I think the problem was the fact that the story takes place in the one place. I know, I know, its called the 'Marshalsea' but i think it lost something by staying (mostly) in the prison. I also thought there were too many characters and got a tad confusing. I have read all the C.J. Sansom books and both Hilary Mantel (Cromwell) books and was trying to put my finger on exactly why this book didn't quite reach those heady heights (a difficult accomplishment at the best of times) . I can only come up with: it tries just a smidge too hard. Sansom and Mantel's characters, descriptions and story-lines seem effortless in comparison. However, I will buy the next Hawkins adventure, just to see what has happened to him.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Steveatki on 23 Sept. 2014
Format: Paperback
Tom Hawkins is a gentleman living by his wits in early 1700's London.
Trying to live life to the full he is a gambler, drinker and enjoys the company of prostitutes. We cannot however dislike him.
Hawins luck is about to run out though. He is in debt and London has a place for dealing with debtors, the notorious debtors prison Marshalsea.
Hawkins is cast into the prison and has to think on his feet to stay alive.
The majority of the book takes place over a 5 day period in the jail where Hawkins finds himself rooming with the equally notorious Samuel Fleet. Fleets last room mate was murdered in his bed. This murder is causing disruption to the prison and to the governor in particular and his numerous money making schemes.
Marshalsea is a community within a community with its hierarchy and the class system very much alive. It is also a brutal place if you are unable to cross the right palm with silver.
Hawkins finds himself offered the deal of solving the murder of his predecessor in return for his freedom and reluctantly sets about the investigation.
There are twists and turns along the way and the book is a highly entertaining read which I thoroughly enjoyed.
The author appears to have done painstaking research and the book is written in just the right tone to evoke the era.
Fully deserving of 5 stars in my opinion
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By K. J. Noyes TOP 500 REVIEWER on 7 Nov. 2014
Format: Hardcover
4.5 stars

Another different Richard and Judy choice. Loved this. Even the squalid, icky and upsetting parts.

Period-wise, it's fantastically detailed and real. Set in 1720s London, I could see the prison, clothes, pubs, squalor and hopelessness. Language-wise, it felt like a contemporary novel a lot of the time (it certainly didn't read like Dickens), but this did make it an easy read.

Despite raising enough funds to stave off his landlord, a robbery sets 'gentleman' Tom Hawkins up for a spell in a notorious debtors' prison, the Marshalsea, until he's paid them off. Although of course, he'll be paying for food, a room, comforts while he's there as well. And soon after arriving Tom gets caught up in the recent murder of an occupant of the prison. Keeping himself alive is just one of his priorities. There are plenty of reasons to find out what happened to the dead prisoner, and plenty of suspects...

It's a brilliant setting for a murder mystery. It does follow a lot of modern conventions of the genre (multiple suspects, clues leading to each other, tangents and false leads, mysterious and shady ladies who may or may not have darker purposes) but in such a unique setting that it's for a history fan just as much as for someone who likes a good murder/thriller tale.

I did get a little confused early on with so many names and characterse introduced within the prison setting, but soon managed to distinguish most of them through their speech. Tom himself is a witty and rascally young man, one you 'enjoy' exploring the prison with.

There is a lot of fairly upsetting poverty and violence throughout, which might put a few people off. But nothing graphic.

I loved the way the story turned and didn't guess the eventual guilty party.
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