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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In Two Minds
This is a strange, dark and compelling book. Taking as his inspiration, a poem by Ian Sinclair, Ackroyd has written a tense, noir story about Nicholas Dyer, the creator of seven of London's most unusual churches, after the great fire of London. The book toggles between Dyer's narrative and the twentieth century story of Nicholas Hawksmoor, an old school police detective,...
Published on 6 Feb. 2011 by Mrs. K. A. Wheatley

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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I wandr'd the Dark Streets of London...
This book was given to me not long after it was published nearly twenty years ago. This does not mean that I am a slow reader, merely that I am easily distracted by other pieces of fiction that come my way. It would be extremely harsh of me to say that my intuition to leave Peter Ackroyd's Hawksmoor was justified but literary stylistics over a plot that should have...
Published on 7 Aug. 2007 by A. Durnion


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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In Two Minds, 6 Feb. 2011
By 
Mrs. K. A. Wheatley "katywheatley" (Leicester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hawksmoor (Penguin Decades) (Paperback)
This is a strange, dark and compelling book. Taking as his inspiration, a poem by Ian Sinclair, Ackroyd has written a tense, noir story about Nicholas Dyer, the creator of seven of London's most unusual churches, after the great fire of London. The book toggles between Dyer's narrative and the twentieth century story of Nicholas Hawksmoor, an old school police detective, who sets out to solve a series of seemingly inexplicable murders linked to the churches in question.

The story is part ghost story, part thriller, part historical novel, part mystical exploration. It is also a hymn to London and the fantastic and unique architecture and history it contains.

It is hard to classify a book such as this, and I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about it. It has unsettled me, unnerved me and made me think. It is not an easy read, but it is a compulsive page turner, and if you love books about London it is definitely one for you.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I wandr'd the Dark Streets of London..., 7 Aug. 2007
By 
A. Durnion "Grey ferret" (Leeds, West Yorkshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hawksmoor (Paperback)
This book was given to me not long after it was published nearly twenty years ago. This does not mean that I am a slow reader, merely that I am easily distracted by other pieces of fiction that come my way. It would be extremely harsh of me to say that my intuition to leave Peter Ackroyd's Hawksmoor was justified but literary stylistics over a plot that should have absorbed me left me feeling cheated at the novels conclusion.

For all the literary accolades that this book was afforded, in hindsight they seem misplaced. Yes, it is a credit to the skill of Peter Ackroyd that he can maintain a dual narrative in which the same actions are replayed over a two hundred year period (1700's/1980's) and he can use the vernacular, idioms and syntax of the two separate centuries over alternating chapters, but this does not make him a 'virtuoso writer'.

In the classic canon of gothic literature (Poe, Shelly, Hogg, Stevenson...) and modern (King, Herbert, Barker...) one consistent feature of terrorising your audience is the authors taut psychological control over the information which is administered gradually. What prevents Hawksmoor from being a great read as opposed to the `I-cannot-get-sleep-until-I finish-the-last-chapter' tension elicited by Stephen Kings' better horrors is the structural weakness of alternating actions between centuries. By the time we come round to the actions of Sir Nicolas Hawksmoor or Detective Hawksmoor, my interest has waned; that, in a gothic genre, is fatal.

The other cardinal rule of the gothic is that we are fascinated by the central character. Here, we do have character that is truly intriguing , morally repugnant and spiritually suspect in the form of Sir Nic. whose architecture is incredibly sinister (even in daylight.) However, human sacrifices aside, he does not have the power to really chill you. Detective Hawksmoor (the other central protagonist) is simply two-dimensional.

Hawksmoor on the whole is a missed opportunity because the central metaphysical premise to the novel is very powerful and could have evoked more potently the deep-rooted human anxieties of predestination. Hawksmoor, like present day London, can , in turns thrill with the dark history of its past whilst you meander in the pedestrian banality of its present.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars great atmosphere but boring, 12 July 2008
This review is from: Hawksmoor (Paperback)
I came to this book via Iain Sinclair who I came to via JG Ballard. The book was first as I expected: a creepy look at the Hawksmoor's churches with the satanic undertones suggested in Sinclair's Lud Heat. The atmosphere is superb, both in the 18th century parts and '50's parts. There's a clever parallel between Dyer and Hawksmoor suggesting the lingering of unresolved evil. However this book bored me a great deal. It takes ages to get going. It's a short book at just over 200 pages but should have been condensed to a short story. In the end I was glad to have finished it. It does, however, change the way you walk past London churches...
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Never forget the most crucial part of any plot is the finale, 17 Jun. 2009
By 
S. Thompson "Wiltshire Saint" (Devizes, Wiltshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hawksmoor (Paperback)
Like another reviewer, I bought this book back in 1985, struggled with it and never got to the half way point. I recently decided to give it another bash. Was it worth it?

On the plus side, Nick Dyer, the central character, is an interesting construct. The 1700s setting is very atmospheric although I found the 1980s version of London to be a little pastiche. The architectural aspects of the book are also intriguing and led me to new areas with my reading.

However, and it's a big however, the author has clearly forgotten that in any book a well constructed plot is key. I found this starts out well, but then dies a death (excuse the pun). I also found the dialogue takes a turn for the worse as the book goes on, with completely artifical and un-natural sounding conversations between characters. The policeman, Hawksmoor, in particular is simply not credible. This lack of a complete plot, which simply tails off into nothing at the conclusion, was a fatal flaw and left me thinking my time would have been better spent on a book by another author.

I may come back to Ackroyd, but I suspect it will be another 2o years or so.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mysterious and stimulating..., 4 Sept. 2009
By 
Ms. N. J. Dixon "crazed writer" (Essex, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hawksmoor (Paperback)
Memorable: moments of brilliance balanced with the more mediocre. The 'moments of brilliance' are, however, incredible. The plot could have been uninteresting and cliched--the schemes of a Restoration Satanist being linked to modern-day murders--but I found myself having to pause and grapple with multiple resonances and echos. Few of them are solved--if you like resolution and closure, stay away from this book. Questions are raised and aren't quite answered; you might see a relationship between masonry, novel-writing and time, but not emerge with a coherent theory. Dyer makes a very interesting Satanist (no 'mwahaha' moments, thank goodness), and the characterisation of Ned the tramp is haunting and fascinating. However, the title is a misnomer--Hawksmoor doesn't appear until 2/3 into the book, and he seems to lack the depth of Ned and Dyer (though possibly Dyer compensates in a more direct way...). I was strongly reminded of David Lynch... the book has the same lurching unreality--and the same tendency to provide no 'answers in the index'.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars strong sense of place, 23 Oct. 2012
By 
Mr. D. P. Jay (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hawksmoor (Penguin Decades) (Paperback)
The author claims that he didn't know anything about writing fiction. "I can't bear fiction. I hate it. It's so untidy. When I was a young man I wanted to be a poet, then I wrote a critical book, and I don't think I even read a novel till I was about 26 or 27." Despite this, there are some very vivid descriptions, such as the boy Tommy's sense of smell and how somebody can become destitute and homeless.

Is it a detective novel? If so, there's no neat ending. It has been described as an `anti-detective novel' because it subverts the genre.
The spelling on the old sections is hard to follow. If followes unofficial 18th century English (characterized by capitalization and Frenchified suffixes such as can be found in Samuel Pepys's diary.

The novel moves between times (the nearest example I can think of, of something similar, is Garner's Red Shift) though much seems the same: there are still homeless people, the same nursery rhymes and weather conditions appear. One commentator remarked "more and more ... reduplications of names, events, actions, and even identical sentences uttered by characters who live two centuries apart, until we are forced to conclude that, in the novel, nothing progresses in time, that the same events repeat themselves endlessly, and that the same people live and die only in order to be born and to live the same events again."
Characters are contrasted. The rationalism of members of the Royal Society is dismissed: "The Company buzzed like Flies above Ordure" and Detective Hawksmoor's detachment, shown in his waiting for another murder is outwitted by the irrational.

There is a strong sense of place, known by some as psychogeography. The city is seen by many as modern, a progress of reason and order; for some, it is the New Jerusalem; for Freemasons there is symbolic order meaning in `the Square Mile.' yet Dyer points out that it was Cain, the murderer, who built the first City. Dyer is sceptical of this: "They build Edifices which they call Systems by laying their Foundacions in the Air and, when they think they are come to sollid Ground, the Building dissapears and the Architects tumble down from the Clowds."

Wren's words that "This is our time . . . and we must lay its Foundacions with our own Hands" are criticised by Dyer: "London grows more Monstruous, Straggling out of all Shape: in this Hive of Noise and Ignorance."

Instead of a new city based on rational thought and science, Dyer sees a monstrous bee-hive, expanding too fast and obsessed with time and news.

Alternatively, it could be said that the East End, with its `raw' life, is being pushed out by trade and capitalism; its chaos being encroached upon by `order' as the buildings of the city's financial sector grows beyond its boundaries.

Different people inhabit the city at different times of the day: suited businessmen during working hours, criminals by night. Although millions pass by the same landmarks, each has a subjective map of associations inside his head and approaches it from different reference points. However, there is something about Hawksmoor's churches that draws history towards them. It is as if they were built on leylines.

Maybe some commentators are reading too much into what might just be a hodgepodge that subverts reason and where sanity and madness are mixed up. Maybe the whole thing is really a graphic description of Hawksmoor's mind as he approaches mental breakdown.

Some our members said it was a `page-turner', not least because one chapter is incomplete without reading the next. Break at the end of one chapter are you are likely to miss the clever resonances and connections that follow.

Others found the book irritating and difficult and wondered whether a book should speak for itself rather than readers having to google to get explanations and interpretations.

Maybe some of us might take a tour/pilgrimage to see these churches, stopping at the many alehouse en route.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A literary, London detective novel, 1 Oct. 2012
This review is from: Hawksmoor (Penguin Decades) (Paperback)
People merging into one over time & space is sort of an Ackroyd trademark (I give you House of Dr. Dee as another example). I happen to enjoy Ackroyd's fiction, and this one caught me right away. The blurb on my book advertises it as a "novel of detection," which it sort of is, but that's not the long and short of it. Set in London, in two very different times, once again, Ackroyd manages to make this city one of the book's leading characters.

The main character in the 18th-century London is Nicholas Dyer, who hides a secret: as a young boy, roaming the streets, he is taken in by a strange man named Mirabilis, who guides Dyer's destiny toward architecture. Dyer eventually becomes apprenticed to an architect, and then is granted the opportunity to work under the supervision of Sir Christopher Wren. His main job is supervising the rebuilding of the old churches in London. Every fearful that his secret will be exposed (I won't tell you what it is here), Dyer has a mission and will not let anyone get in the way. The main character in the present is one Nicholas Hawksmoor, a detective who is currently investigating a series of strange murders, each one occurring at a different church in London. The story of Dyer and the story of Hawksmoor begin to blend as Hawksmoor tries to figure out just who is doing these murders and why. However, as I noted earlier, the "detection" is not so much the focus of the story, so if you're looking for a mystery novel with a satisfying conclusion, don't be looking here!

As an aside, I did a bit of research on this book after I finished and found out an interesting tidbit of information, which sort of clicked everything together for me and made me do an "aha" once I'd read it. I'll share it with you here, but you have to make the choice to go look or to wait until you've finished the book: to peek or not peek, that is the question

This book is not for anyone who wants a quick read, or who does not want to think about what he or she is reading. I had a map in my hand of London, past & present, and switching thought modes from London past to London present was a little disconcerting at times. But overall, if you want to read a fine piece of literature, I can recommend this one wholeheartedly.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than LONDON, 20 Mar. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Hawksmoor (Paperback)
I read this after LONDON, A BIOGRAPHY and I must say right away that it is by far and away a better book at every possible level -- better written, better imagined and better balanced! I have read Moorcock's MOTHER LONDON and Sinclair's DOWN RIVER and while this doesn't have their scope, it has some of their depth. Ackroyd's work sometimes seems a bit schematic, with an echo of the academic about it and his novels often don't ever seem to get beyond a bit of theory, but I would recommend this novel to everyone. While it's well-known that Lud Heat by Sinclair was the inspiration of Hawksmoor, Ackroyd's common touch make his book far more accessible than Sinclair's. It would make a superb movie and I'm really surprised some film director hasn't jumped on it with cries of joy. It wouldn't cost that much to make, either! JB
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark and beautifully crafted, 23 Jan. 2004
By 
Timothy De Ferrars (France) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hawksmoor (Paperback)
This is a dark and skilfully-woven book that held me in thrall and then ended so abruptly that it felt as if the power had been cut. Hawksmoor was ahead of its time, playfully flaunting literary devices that are almost cinematic and have since become widely used. For instance, the narrative flashes backwards and forwards in time, and strange resonances accumulate until past and future become entwined. Words and phrases leap across centuries, and characters overlap in life and death in a chilling and macabre dance.

Much of the narrative is delivered in first person by Nick Dyer, acolyte of Sir Christopher Wren and practitioner of satanic arts. Ackroyd serves up with relish the foul deeds and alarming inner thoughts of Dyer, whose churches rise up as temples of darkness alongside contemporary works that are designed to celebrate enlightenment, science and engineering.

Ackroyd so immersed himself in 17th-century English (he claims to have read over 200 books from that time while researching, or perhaps rehearsing, Hawksmoor) that Dyer's first-person narrative is credible, readable and well-paced.

If you are new to Ackroyd, start here. If not, be prepared to find a black and elliptical side to him that might surprise you.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark and disturbing creation of an hallucinatory London, 8 Oct. 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Hawksmoor (Paperback)
This is the fourth Ackroyd novel I have read this year. I have not yet finished it as I write, but think it the best of them, though this may be because I am being pulled deeper into the world of Ackroyd's imagination, which resonates across the novels. Ackroyd creates a vivid fictional London from the factual bare bones of the real one, exploiting cliches of historical chronicle and detective novel to show how the threads woven by our need for personal meaning -in this case, evil and perverse meaning- tie the past to the present. In the process he reveals the patterns that emerge out of the unknown or forgotten fragments of lives lived, and lost, anonymously in this city where the churches are literally built on the remains of the dead.
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Hawksmoor (Penguin Decades)
Hawksmoor (Penguin Decades) by Peter Ackroyd (Paperback - 28 Mar. 1993)
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