cover image The Devil in the Marshalsea

The Devil in the Marshalsea

Antonia Hodgson. HMH/Mariner, $15.95 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-0-544-17667-6

Hodgson, the editor-in-chief of Little, Brown U.K., conjures up scenes of Dickensian squalor and marries them to a crackerjack plot, in her impressive first novel, set in 1727. Tom Hawkins, the 25-year-old wastrel son of an English minister, has the misfortune to land in London’s hellish debtors’ prison, the Marshalsea Gaol. With his life and sanity at stake, Hawkins seizes a possibility for a reprieve. Shortly before his entry to the Marshalsea, the hanging death of another prisoner, Capt. John Roberts, was ruled a suicide. Roberts’s widow believes otherwise, and with reports of the captain’s ghost haunting the jail, the authorities hope that Hawkins will conduct an independent investigation that they can use to calm the inmates. Hodgson makes the stench, as well as the despair, almost palpable, besides expertly dropping fair clues. Fans of Iain Pears and Charles Palliser will hope for a sequel. Agent: Clare Conville, Conville & Walsh Literary Agency (U.K.). (June)