The Devil's Acre, Paperback
3.5 out of 5 (3 ratings)


A novel of intrigue, violence and conflicted loyalties from the author of The Street Philosopher.

What price to take hold of the devil's right hand? Spring, 1853. After a triumphant display at the Great Exhibition in London, the legendary American entrepreneur and inventor Colonel Samuel Colt expands his gun-making business into England.

He acquires a riverside warehouse in Pimlico and sets about converting it into a pistol works capable of mass producing his patented revolvers on an unprecedented scale - aware that the prospect of war with Russia means huge profits.

The young, ambitious Edward Lowry is hired by Colt to act as his London secretary.

Although initially impressed by the Colonel's dynamic approach to his trade, Edward comes to suspect that the American's intentions in the Metropolis are not all they appear.

Meanwhile, the secretary becomes romantically involved with Caroline Knox, a headstrong woman from the machine floor - who he discovers is caught up in a plot to steal revolvers from the factory's stores. Among the workforce Colt has gathered from the seething mass of London's poor are a gang of desperate Irish immigrants, embittered refugees from the potato famine, who intend to use these stolen six-shooters for a political assassination in the name of revenge.

As pistols start to go missing, divided loyalties and hidden agendas make the gun-maker's factory the setting for a tense story of intrigue, betrayal and murder.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 432 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Historical fiction
  • ISBN: 9780007273973



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Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.

Review by

The Devil’s Acre referred to a squalid area not far from the Westminster which was home to the poorest of the poor who, in 1853 immediately after the great potato famine, were usually Irish. The inequities England visited on the Irish made the worst excesses of Apartheid seem like five-star treatment: when Colonel Samuel Colt opened his weapons factory in London, a group of desperate Irish refugees, calling themselves The Molly Maguire’s, went to work for him in the hopes of steeling guns they could use to avenge themselves. Edward Lowry, Colt’s English secretary, becomes involved against his will, providing a human element to this story of industrial espionage, financial expediency, betrayal and immorality

Review by

Originally published in hardcover as The Gun-Maker’s Gift, The Devil’s Acre tells the story of Samuel Colt, and the factory he built in Pimlico in London in 1853. The story is told alternately from the point of view of his London secretary, Edward Lowry; a young factory worker named Caroline Knox; and her sister and brother-in-law, an Irish immigrant who plots to use Colt’s weapons for a political assassination. Meanwhile, Colt himself has his own agenda—especially with war in Europe looming on the horizon.I really, really loved the author’s first book, The Street Philosopher, so of course I was excited to read this one. But what a huge disappointment for me! The author has a talent for describing the places and people (fictional and not) he writes about, but I felt that the plot was lacking in this one. The assassination plot fizzles out, and there were several other plot strands that went nowhere. The book drags a bit in the middle, too.There’s also next to no chemistry between Edward and Caroline. The author describes Victorian London well, and I thought his depiction of Samuel Colt was especially good, but I couldn’t bring myself to care much about any of the characters. This is especially disappointing to me, as I had such high hopes for the book. With The Street Philosopher, I found myself riveted to the book, unable to put it down. Instead, with this book, I found my attention wandering at many points while reading this book. Not a fantastic book for me, but I have hopes for Matthew Plampin’s next one.

Review by

I enjoyed the first Matthew Plampin book and was enthusiastic when I found his second on the shelves of the local discount book store. I was not disappointed. Plampin's attention to detail is second to none and he creates an atmosphere and setting which puts yu right there. The whole ambiance of the book, descriptions of the factory and slums, along with the characterisation draws you in to the 1850s; you can hear the sounds, smell the slums and hear the characters speak. I can thoroughly recommend this book and look forward to his third coming out.