The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson
Reviewed by W. Keith McCoy, Somerset County Library System
The ne’er-do-well son of a country parson is thrown into the alternative world that is debtors’ prison of London in 1727. Owned by a noble, run by an SOB, and inhabited by the unfortunate as well as the conniving, Marshalsea Gaol is a festering pot of deception, treachery and brutality. When a man of means is murdered inside it, everyone seems to have an interest in finding the killer, as well as a motive. New arrival Tom Hawkins not only needs to pay off his debts, he needs to find out who murdered the man who slept in his bed two days before. The scenes are Hogarthian, and the pace is Pattersonian. The author has a gift for action and characters, using the historical prison as the main stage, and real people as supporting actors. She manages to keep the reader guessing as to who might be the murderer, and when (and whom) he might strike next.
Verdict: History and mystery fans will both enjoy the roller coaster twists and turns of this atmospheric thriller.