This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia…

The Devil in the Marshalsea (2014)

by Antonia Hodgson

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2431770,098 (4.04)36
  1. 00
    Dissolution by C. J. Sansom (bookfitz)
  2. 00
    The Black Tower by Louis Bayard (wandering_star)
    wandering_star: Both these books are highly enjoyable historical mysteries.

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 36 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
It’s 1727 and Thomas Hawkins is in trouble. Admittedly, this is pretty much the status quo as far as this roguish disowned son of a clergyman is concerned; but this time things are worse than usual. Having spent his meagre income on wine, women and gambling, Tom is in dire financial straits, but a chance win at the tables has brightened his mood. Now he can pay his rent, get his landlord off his back and carry on having a good time. But the world has other plans. Mugged and robbed in the stews of St Giles, Tom is left – once again – penniless, and his landlord is in no mood to be generous. Our bewildered young hero is dragged off to the infamous Marshalsea, the debtors’ prison in Southwark. Like hell, it’s easy to enter but hard to leave. And, like hell, there are demons loose within. As rumours of murder and ghosts spread around the prison, Tom is made an offer: find the murderer and he will be set free. But what if the murderer finds him first?

For the full review, please see my blog:
https://theidlewoman.net/2019/02/13/the-devil-in-the-marshalsea-antonia-hodgson/ ( )
  TheIdleWoman | Feb 13, 2019 |
I really loved this book. It reminded me so much of Dickens' 'Little Dorrit', which is also partly set in the Marshalea prison, although Little Dorrit is set about a century later (1820's). I read a lot of historical fiction - love CJ Samson's Matthew Shardlake series and I have read a lot of Susanna Gregory's historical novels, but the Devil in the Marshalea struck me as having the most authentic tone of them all; it felt so much like Dickens. Some reviewers didn't think the characters were well developed. I disagree. Perhaps Tom Hawkins was not all that complex, but his roommate, Samual Fleet was very well developed. He is portrayed as evil and dangerous, but Tom learns that he has a good side as well. Reminds me a bit of the Dickens character Magwitch from Great Expectations. Anyway, perhaps this book is not meant to be so much about characters as the life and times of an early debtor's prison. Scary time to live if you couldn't pay even a small sum to your creditors. I found the book hard to put down, really vivid descriptions of the horrors of early prison life, suspenseful plot. Really, I can't think of anything negative to say about it. Can't understand the 3 star ratings much less the 2 star ones, a matter of taste I suppose.

Added Sept 13. I am now reading the sequel (The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins). It makes me realize one thing I don't like about both books - in both cases the main character Hawkins is also the main victim - a major theme in both books is him getting into a dangerous scrape and how is he going to get out of it. I now realize that I don't really like this kind of theme, as opposed to the hero helping obtain justice for a third party. ( )
  MitchMcCrimmon | Apr 27, 2018 |
Tom Hawkins is the son of an East Anglican cleric, expected to follow his father into the vocation, however Tom has a wild side and whilst studying at Cambridge he indulged in many vices. Denounced by his jealous stepbrother, Tom is cast off by his father and has ended up in London living the life of a rake and a wastrel. Unfortunately Tom is naive and moral which means that he incurs debt to such a level that he is threatened with prison. Gambling all on a final game of cards he wins but is robbed and thrown into the Marshalsea Prison.

The prison is a tough place to be, life hangs by a thread and the inability to pay for rent and board on the 'Masters Side' means almost certain death on the 'Commons Side'. However a murder has taken place and Tom is charged with investigating this as the price for freedom. The regime running the Marshalsea is making a lot of money and any official investigation may bring that to an end. Tom struggles to find the truth as he is unsure of who to trust.

The depiction of life in 18th century London is excellent, the Hogarthian nature of life for all classes is shown. A man's future is dependent on money and influence and the wheel of fortune throws individuals down as often as they are thrown up. Many characters in this book are drawn from life and the fictional characters are very believable. The plot is a little odd in the end but the journey to that ending is complex and enjoyable - a gripping little book. ( )
1 vote pluckedhighbrow | Jun 26, 2017 |
Thomas Hawkins is a wastrel living in London in 1727, spending what money he has on drink, gambling and women. One day he is threatened with eviction from his lodgings for being behind with his rent. He manages to scrape up enough, but then is mugged and robbed and finds himself in the notorious debtors' prison, the Marshalsea in Borough High Street, Southwark (better known in the following century for at one time hosting John Dickens, the author's father, and family minus young Charles, and being immortalised in Little Dorrit). He witnesses horrible scenes of torture and degrading treatment under the brutal governor William Acton, particularly in the poorest part of the prison, the Common Side, and encounters a rich cast of characters, many of whom are based on real life figures from the prison of that era. He has to solve a murder to save his own life and discovers that very few of those around him are quite as they seem. An interesting novel, though I wasn't sure whether I really took to the central character, and some of the twists and turns around some of the characters didn't ring true to me. The author has done her research on the historical background very well. ( )
  john257hopper | Oct 15, 2016 |
Debtors' prison in 1727 is very different to what we in the 21st century might expect. Those who enter will never truly be free of debt for if they live to serve their sentence they will still have incurred debts in merely surviving. In many cases the debt to the prison will be greater than that for which they were originally imprisoned. Whether they survive or not really depends on whether they in the Common prison or not. Many of those not in the Common Side of the prison are free to leave during the day to carry on commerce, to conduct business and earn money that will enable them to pay for their prison accommodation. They must return to the prison each night. In this system those housed in the Common Side will not survive more than a few months.

It is unusual though for wealthier prisoners like Captain John Roberts to die, and the authorities announce that he has committed suicide, although his wife firmly believes he has been murdered. Rumours abound that his ghost is roaming the prison and that it requires that his murderer be exposed. The prison authorities recognise the unrest this is causing.

Tom Hawkins finds himself charged with identifying Captain Roberts' murderer. If he does he will be released and pardoned, but if he doesn't he will die in the Common Side.

The true value of this book lies in the wealth of historical detail. Many of the characters used are based on true figures, and the situations in which they are found really happened. ( )
  smik | Oct 3, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
"Impeccably researched and astonishingly atmospheric, with time past evoked so strongly that one can almost smell it, this is a truly spellbinding tale."
added by bookfitz | editThe Guardian, Laura Wilson (May 22, 2014)
"Hodgson’s plotting is clever, perhaps even overly intricate, and the local color hair-raising."
added by bookfitz | editKirkus Reviews (Apr 15, 2014)
"Hodgson makes the stench, as well as the despair, almost palpable, besides expertly dropping fair clues."
added by bookfitz | editPublishers Weekly (Apr 14, 2014)
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Conscience makes ghosts walk, and departed souls appear ... it works upon the imagination with an invincible force, like faith (Daniel Defoe, The Secrets of the Invisible World Disclos'd, 1729)

Arose about four. In the Park I saw Half a Dozen Crows in very hoarse conversation together, but not understanding their Language I cou'd not devise what they were upon, but believe they was agreeing how to divide the Corps of those unhappy wretches that Dye so briefly in this Place (John Grano, A Journal of My Life while in the Marshalsea, 1728–9)
For Joanna, Justine and Victoria, with thanks.
First words
They came for him at midnight.
Bullies are just men who don't know they are cowards, of course. (p. 139)
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Haiku summary
Murder and mayhem
in the Marshalsea prison –
wonder who done it?
(passion4reading with help from Tom)

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0544176677, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:29 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"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"--… (more)

» see all 5 descriptions

Quick Links

Popular covers


Average: (4.04)
2 1
2.5 2
3 11
3.5 8
4 34
4.5 11
5 18

Tantor Media

An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

» Publisher information page

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 133,470,007 books! | Top bar: Always visible