Amy Myers is known for her short stories and historical novels featuring Victorian chef Auguste Didier and chimney sweep Tom Wasp. Her contemporary series features classic car detective Jack Colby, and she is currently working on a new 1920s mystery series featuring Nell Drury, chef at Kent’s Wychbourne Court.
Like the proverbial London buses, a publication with a good setting can by chance often bring another with the same background at the same time. All the better for readers of historical thrillers in this case, although the two novels concerned have completely different approaches.
In The English Monster, Lloyd Shepherd’s debut novel, Wapping on the River Thames is the focus for a horror thriller that takes the reader to far off continents and far off times; whereas Patrick Easter’s Tom Pascoe novels, the second of which (The River of Fire) is now published, are set in Wapping and the London docklands alone and take place in the eighteenth century.
The English Monster is interestingly and unusually structured novel which centres on the notorious murders on the Ratcliffe Highway in 1811, which are known to modern readers chiefly through The Maul and the Pear Tree by P.D. James and T.A.Critchley. The English Monster however takes us far beyond the murders themselves, exploring in fiction what their origins might be. The exploration takes us back to the Elizabethan high seas, when a lad called Billy goes to sea for the first time on one of Elizabeth’s trading (and slave) ships commanded by John Hawkyns, and is befriended by a seaman called Francis Drake. Billy’s heart lies behind in England with his young wife, Kate, but ahead lie unknown and dark waters.
The Ratcliffe Highway murders, in which two families were slaughtered, make for horrific reading even now, but add to that the power of Shepherd’s writing about an even greater horror, and the result is a potent one, a both memorable and gripping novel.
Read our interview with Lloyd