Tom Hawkins lives in 1727 London, fleeing his father’s expectations that he follow a career path in the church. Tom prefers a more sin-based life filled with games of chance, liquor, and women, not necessarily in that order. When Tom is sent to Marshalsea Gaol, London’s debtor prison, he refuses to ask his father for help, but quickly realizes that he must reach out to others for help if he wants to survive for any amount of time. Tom quickly finds himself submerged in the murky mystery of solving the murder of a fellow debtor before he finds himself dead from disease, starvation, or as the murderer’s next victim.
Antonia Hodgson’s book “The Devil in the Marshalsea” was a fast-paced, historically gripping novel. The stark reality of poverty in the 1700s is brought to life, with lots of intrigue and romance thrown in. I found myself quickly engrossed in this novel, following the exciting ups and downs of the plot. The author had wonderful character development, and did an outstanding job of weaving fact with fiction to showcase this time period. I found it hard to believe this was her first novel, but I’m eagerly awaiting more from this author.
It’s 1727. Tom Hawkins is damned if he’s going to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a country parson. Not for him a quiet life of prayer and propriety. His preference is for wine, women, and cards. But there’s a sense of honor there too, and Tom won’t pull family strings to get himself out of debt—not even when faced with the appalling horrors of London’s notorious debtors’ prison: The Marshalsea Gaol.
Within moments of his arrival in the Marshalsea, Hawkins learns there’s a murderer on the loose, a ghost is haunting the gaol, and that he’ll have to scrounge up the money to pay for his food, bed, and drink. He’s quick to accept an offer of free room and board from the mysterious Samuel Fleet—only to find out just hours later that it was Fleet’s last roommate who turned up dead. Tom’s choice is clear: get to the truth of the murder—or be the next to die.