"In the midst of life we are in death."
London in the early 1850s. The squalid underbelly of the Victorian slums coexist in uneasy partnership with the specious glamour of the privileged, dandified West End, each feeding off the other in an endless circle of vice, exploitation and death. London is the world's capital city of murder, its chief attraction the public execution of killers at Newgate.
Edmund Whitty is a correspondent on the Falcon, reporting on the underworld. He is a loser, pursued by creditors and dangerously addicted to alcohol, laudanum, and cocaine. He is openly scornful of the balladeers, or patterers, who write up the life of the condemned in doggerel verses even further divorced from truth than his own, embroidered newspaper reports. Whitty reaches his nadir when he is kidnapped and spirited off to the slums of St Giles.
His kidnapper is Mr. Owler, a balladeer he has traduced in one of his columns. But instead of revenge Owler wishes them to form an unlikely partnership. The subject of Owler's latest ballad is the serial killer, William Ryan, shortly to hang for his crimes. Ryan denies his guilt, but Owler feels by securing access to the criminal he will extract the man's true confession, beat his competitors to the story and thus make his fortune. He wants Whitty to lend validation to his research.
They are about to embark on a strange journey through the darkness of Victorian London where truth and fiction are often indistinguishable, a condemned man's life is at stake and savage, copycat murders continue despite his incarceration.
©2002 John Maclachlan Gray (P)2010 Random House Audiobooks
I listened to this story on Audible - and enjoyed every minute of the 15 hours! True the plot did, at times become subsumed by the evocative descriptions of Victorian London, but in an odd way that further enhanced the whole experience. I normally get bored with extensive descriptive passages, but the reader, Patrick Romer came over as the very essence of a Victorian gent, subtly transporting the readers/listeners back to the mid 19th Century
When I first started to listen to this book I didnt think I would like it.It does jump from one character to the next rather quickly I thought, without much warning and seems rather hectic at first as if the author is trying to get all the characters introduced at once so he can get on with the story. However, I soon became quite engrossed with it. The story of early journalists on the trail of a murderer could quite easily mirror into todays modern life I found the narration by Patrick Romer very good He sounds like a victorian if you know what I mean! He does an excellent upperclass voice
For me it had a good ending with a twist added .I think this would make an excellent historical TV drama/mystery if it was edited correctly. Thoroughly reccomended
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