The English Monster, Hardback
3 out of 5 (3 ratings)


London, 1811. The twisting streets of riverside Wapping hold many an untold sin.

Bounded by the Ratcliffe Highway to the north and the modern wonders of the Dock to the south, shameful secrets are largely hidden by the noise and glory of Trade.

But two families have fallen victim to foul murder, and a terrified populace calls for justice.

John Harriott, magistrate of the new Thames River Police Office, must deliver revenge up to them and his only hope of doing so is Charles Horton, Harriot's senior officer.

Harriott only recently came up with a word to describe what it is that Horton does.

It is detection. Plymouth, 1564. Young Billy Ablass arrives from Oxford armed only with a Letter of Introduction to Captain John Hawkyns, and the burning desire of all young men; the getting and keeping of money.

For Hawkyns is about to set sail in a ship owned by Queen Elizabeth herself, and Billy sees the promise of a better life with a crew intent on gain and glory.

The kidnap and sale of hundreds of human beings is not the only cursed event to occur on England's first officially-sanctioned slaving voyage. On a sun-blasted islet in the Florida Cays, Billy too is to be enslaved for the rest of his accursed days.

Based on the real-life story of the gruesome Ratcliffe Highway murders, The English Monster takes us on a voyage across centuries, through the Age of Discovery, and throws us up, part of the human jetsam, onto the streets of Regency Wapping, policed only by Officer Horton.




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Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.

Review by

Based on the infamous Ratcliffe Highway murders of the early nineteenth century, already covered by P.D. James in <i>The Maul and the Pear Tree</i>, Lloyd Shepherd turns the gruesome investigation into <i>The Suspicions of Mr Whicher</i> meets Pirates of the Caribbean. I found the component parts interesting enough - the real-life slaughter of two families, the British slave trade and the history of London's police force - but the delivery fell somewhat short for me. The erratic narration - part pseudo-Dickens, part lyrical firsthand recounting - didn't help any of the characters to leap off the page, from constable Horton to Billy Ablass himself, and after the two timelines merged, the mystery was vastly reduced. And I'm sorry, but what was the point of the supernatural - or unnatural, at least - conceit linking the two halves of the tale? Shepherd should have written either a straightforward nineteenth century murder mystery, 'based on real events', or a fictional condemnation of the seventeenth century slave trade - but not both. Creative, but slightly too adventurous to work.

Review by

A good writer can make the most unlikely subjects interesting and Shepherd does an excellent job of bringing to life not only the history of the London docklands, the reclamation and development of Wapping, the growth of the London police force and the story of some of its officers, but also the fascinating tale of both English slavers and pirates.Add a brutal murder, a few contemporary documents and a helping of social history to the mix and it would seem a recipe for guaranteed success. Why oh why then does Shepherd take the unnecessary and absurd step of introducing a black-magic element which, while it neatly unites various elements, does not sit comfortably in this factually meticulous and historically convincing story, thus spoiling what is otherwise a intriguing and well-written book?

Review by

Shepherd uses the real Ratcliffe Highway murders of 1811 and the emergence of police detection as the core of this original and exciting thriller. He cleverly weaves this with a story from the very beginnings of the English slave trade in the 1560s to provide an exciting resolution with a supernatural twist.

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