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The English Monster: or, The Melancholy Transactions of William Ablass (Charles Horton #1)

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3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  476 ratings  ·  122 reviews
Two moments in England’s rise to empire, separated by centuries, yet connected by a crime that cannot be forgiven . . .

London, 1811. Along the twisting streets of Wapping, bounded by the ancient Ratcliffe Highway and the modern wonder of the London Dock, many a sin is hidden by the noise and glory of Trade. But now two families have fallen victim to foul murder,
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ebook, 432 pages
Published May 29th 2012 by Atria Books (first published March 1st 2012)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,226)
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Ellie
The year is 1811. On the streets of Wapping, a family have been brutally slaughtered in their home. There is no motive and the police on land have no interest in investigations. However the watermen who patrol the river have other ideas. Jump back in time to 1564 and a ship is setting sail to the coast of Africa, embarking on a mission that will change history, and not for the better.

The English Monster paints a murky picture of Britain's maritime history, there's a real sense of how the streets
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Essie Fox
Although it won't be published until early 2012,I've been lucky enough to read a proof copy of this book which I thoroughly enjoyed and admired.

The English Monster is a refreshing example of intelligent and cleverly constructed historical fiction which also has a tantalising plot.

With two separate narrative strands which start out as being centuries apart before gradually merging into an explosive climax, Lloyd Shepherd’s debut novel is at first glance a relatively straight-forward criminal myst
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Wanda
15 JUN 2014 -- Game of Thrones season finale tonight. I am sad to see the end of another season and to have such a long wait until the next. But, on the bright side, I will now have one more day to read.

Honestly, I will begin reading this one tomorrow.

17 JUN 2014 -- Easily readable and peopled with likely characters makes this a quick read. Heck, I am already up to Part 2. It is an ebook so I will take a look at the Table of Contents to see what this translates to page-wise. Equals Page 127 of
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Melanie Trevelyan
May 12, 2012 Melanie Trevelyan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Melanie by: The author
I enjoyed this book as it was quite different from most of the other books out there at the moment! Combining the grimy dockyards of Wapping and the exotic Jamaica.
The story combines a shipping expedition to collect slaves and the descriptions of the capture of the slaves and the treatment of them is detailed and disturbing making the title The English Monster very apt. What happens to Billy Ablass on one of these expeditions is startling and links the two parts of the story together.
Two centur
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David Cross
Murders, detectives, pirates, London history. What more could you look for in a novel? What's that you say? A touch of magical realism? Well, you're in luck. It has that too.

It's hard to explain this novel without giving too much away. The story starts in two different historical periods - Wapping at the time of the Ratcliffe Highway murders and Plymouth in 1564 as Billy Ablass sets off for the Caribbean on board one of England's first slaving ships. There is a reason for these two different set
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Katie Ward
Lloyd Shepherd’s debut, The English Monster, begins with a puzzle: six pirates are hanged from the gallows by a river; five of them are dead, but one of them is only pretending to be dead.
It is an enticing hook – macabre and gory – and sets the tone for a yarn which is part pirate adventure, part detective story, part historical fiction and part horror.
The novel is broadly set over two time periods, with two narratives.
In 1564 (during the reign of Queen Elizabeth) a flotilla of ships, captaine
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Chloé
Really don't bother with this. It takes almost 3/4 of the book for the link between the stories to be revealed and even then it's a disappointment. Painfully drawn out.
Bill
This novel is based on the real-life Ratcliffe Highway murders in London in 1811. Having said that, the author definitely takes liberties with the story...many, many liberties. Suffice it to say that this is historical fiction, crime fiction and fantasy all in one book. You definitely have to suspend disbelief for this one. If you can do that, it's actually very enjoyable. Personally, I can't wait to read the next book in the series.
Joan
Enjoyed reading this book, once I got used to the rapid changes from the 16th century to the 19th Century. Some of the detail, especially about the slaves, I found difficult and shaming to read. The Wapping setting was so interesting, I now have to go to walk the area myself!
Kathryn
I am flummoxed as to how there are so many 4 or even 5 star reviews on this novel.

The first 100+ pages are almost unreadable they are so dull; the following 300 range from rubbish to brief elements of decent writing. The story - or stories, as it were - does not gain momentum in any interesting way, and there are no satisfying conclusions or results.

I don't think this book is particularly well written, either, although the Author's Note at the end demonstrates that the author is adept at journa
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Patrizia
As much as anyone, Lloyd Shepard reminds me of Christopher Priest at his most lucid and layered. In fact, The English Monster and The Prestige share a common theme -- a protagonist who's the consumate Outsider and who, during the course of the narrative, grows less and less human. The fault is not his own, of course, but you are still chilled by the transformation.

The novel is structured as parallel stories separated by some 250 years, which makes the first 100 pages or so confusing. Also, of co
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Heather
What an excellent book. I've found a new author to add to my lists of 'favorite' and 'must read all works'. The writing is excellent and rich. The characters jump off the page, each and every one. I loved everything about this book and can't wait to read the other two with Horton.
Sinead Fitzgibbon
This is a very ambitious piece of work, and in lesser hands it may have veered wide of the mark. But Lloyd Shepherd has proved himself a master of the intricate plot. 'The English Monster' is an intriguing and quite often horrifying expedition into Britain's dark and murky past. Flawless.
Lee Battersby
Fantastic example of a novel that British authors seem to write with impunity: the fantasy novel that refuses to acknowledge itself as such, and persuades everyone else not to either. In this case, what starts out as a meticulously researched and beautifully realistic double narrative about a young sailor on Queen Elizabeth's first sanctioned slaving voyage and the unfolding of the Ratcliffe Highway murders of John Williams some 250-odd years later develops into a gritty fantasy crime procedural ...more
Janette Fleming
Perferct review that I cannot improve on...

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-ent...

Non-spoiler alert! There is a dark twist – a spot of black-magical realism, if you like – about halfway through Lloyd Shepherd's first novel that this reviewer has no desire to ruin for readers. In fact, so delicious and unexpected is this turn of events that it moves a book that is already part detective fiction, part historical novel and part pirate adventure into entirely new territory, adding themes of natural
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M
In order to enjoy this book, I feel you need to turn to the words of the great Axl Rose: You need a little patience.

The first chapter, I thought, was brilliant. I thought, "Wow, this book is going to reward me for being adventurous and reading something I would never normally pick up." The 1811 stuff, at first was close to gripping. And then... Well, when the ships started sailing my grip on the plot went with them, and I was Very Confused.

But then, after 250 pages or so (I know, it's a big ask
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Echo31
As the first novel of author Lloyd Shepherd, The English Monster: or, The Melancholy Transactions of William Ablass was a pleasant surprise. Shepherd did a wonderful job of describing the various settings within the novel. From small villages to exotic locale, each place was given such detail I felt as if I was actually there. The characters were also crafted with much care. Each individual within the novel was given just enough background and personality to make him/her realistic. I had no trou ...more
P.C. Dettman
This is what I have learned: writers should not review fiction. Read it, yes, but do not review it. Quite recently, it was possible to blog a book review in the full knowledge that the author (or anyone connected with him) would never read it. That is no longer true. In Twitterage (that is a time between the last ice age and the next one) I am 90% certain the author will see a bit of this review. He may even read it all. And that compromises me. For tactics in similar circumstances, please see A ...more
Victoria
I had really high hopes for this book, and after reading the opening chapters, I thought I was going to really enjoy it. Alas, half way through, I found myself skim reading in places and desperate to reach the end so I could read something else.

The story has promise - it is essentially two slow-moving plot-lines, which come together despite the 300 year gap between them. One concerns itself with the horrific Ratcliffe Highway murders, the other is a seafaring adventure rooted in the slave trade.
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Cathy Cole
First Line: The ancient road began at the Tower and ran east to west along a terrace of gravel.

It's 1811, and from the ancient Ratcliffe Highway to the London Dock, the district of Wapping is the throbbing heart of the British Empire's meteoric rise in trade and the accumulation of wealth. Wapping is also the scene of the gruesome murders of two families, and John Harriott, creator of the newly established Thames River Police soon realizes two important facts.

The first fact is that petty jurisdi
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Nick
This is a strange book - doubly historical as we follow an early 19th century murder invesigation and a young lad, Billy Ablass, setting off in 1564 for the Americas as a cabin boy, dreaming of fortune. Gradually the two stories start to converge.

As is often the case with dual narratives, the reader prefers one to the other. In my case, I found the seafaring gripping, especially as Ablass's fate takes a strange twist whilst on a landing party. The atmosphere feels real, exciting as new lands are
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Crazyjamie
The English Monster is a rare type of book, because it is one that I will recommend to people without me being entirely sure how satisfied I was with it overall. Let me explain. As reading any random plot synopsis will tell you, this is a two thread story, with one part following the investigation into brutal murders carried out in Wapping in the 19th century, and the being set (initially) in the 16th century with a distinctly pirate flavour to it.

The genius behind this book is in the premise.
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Michael Harling
One gets the impression that Mr. Shepherd did a lot of research for this book, and couldn't wait to show it off. To be fair, the flavor of the different eras the book visits does come through, but it is a bit thick. It takes many paragraphs for a character to take a short walk down a street due to the many, many buildings and customs they notice along the way.

This would be forgiveable if it was accompanied by an intriguing plot but, overall, I found the narrative pointless. The unusual device Mr
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Bibliophile
The English Monster is not easily categorized. You might call this a historical detective novel with Elizabethan pirates and a dash of the supernatural, which sounds messy, but it all comes together very nicely. Or you could just call it a merciless indictment of England's slavetrading past (admirers of Francis Drake, look away). Either way, it's a slow but intriguing story shifting between the 16th and 19th centuries, with plenty of historical detail, colorful settings and graphic violence. It ...more
Jim Gunnee
First five star book for a while. Really a very good read. It is just possible however, that this book was specifically written for me - It's horror which is my first choice of genre, It's historical fiction, another favorite and it's mostly set in London, which I've always liked and am now growing to love. So you might not enjoy it quite as much as I did.

But even if it's not exactly to your tastes it's also properly researched and beautifully and evocatively written. Give it a go, I don't think
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Barb
This just wasn't the right book for me right now. Part of my inability to get into the story was the shifting narration in alternating chapters and the fact that the time period is different as well.

I had a hard time keeping the characters of Horton and Harriott straight and I wanted a map so I knew where I was, there were a lot of details about Wapping and where the Ratcliffe Highway runs near the river. I just had a hard time following all the directional details.

I can see how this will be the
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Helen
This book was crammed full of everything; detective work, gruesome murders, trading ships, pirates, slave traders, great characterisations and some para-normal activity to top it off.

The book was wonderfully put together and refreshingly different. Why didn't I give it 5 stars? It, for some reason, failed to engage with me (or maybe I failed to engage with it)and I found myself, once or twice, reading rather reluctantly. Its never a good sign when the number of remaining pages are counted at reg
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Sandra Foy
There are two plotlines in this book, one from the 16th century, the other from the 19th century. The first concerns a young man who goes on a sea-faring voyage to earn his fortune. It soon becomes apparent that the treasure they are after is human and the desperate beginnings of the slave trade are gruesomely depicted. I wonder if the English Monster of the title refers not to the actual murderer in the book but the slave trade itself. The second story revolves around the Ratcliffe Highway Murd ...more
Chris The Story Reading Ape
Beginning with six pirates being hanged from the gallows by a river; five of them are dead, but one of them is only pretending to be dead and disappears overnight.

However, the story is set in two time periods, weaving between each other.

In 1564 (during the reign of Queen Elizabeth) a fleet of ships, captained by John Hawkyns, is on a covert trade mission. His crew includes Billy Ablass, a young man seeking his fortune.

In 1811, the local authorities in Shadwell and Wapping investigate two sets of
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Deborah
This was enthralling. Twin narrative threads of a rattling boys own adventure on the high seas and factual 19th century Jack the ripper style slayings in the infant Wapping docklands. Who perpetrated these foul deeds? What has it to do with the privateers/buccaneers/pirates centuries before? Haunting this tale is the slave trade: throughout this novel/history it is the spectre at the feast- England's great shame that pulls the threads together. It is a very cunning device, for throughout the boo ...more
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5275960
I'm the author of The English Monster, The Poisoned Island and Savage Magic.

All three books are standalone mysteries featuring waterman-constable Charles Horton of the River Police Office in Wapping. Horton is a mutineer, a husband, and a detective who has never heard the word 'detective'. He finds himself embroiled in some very odd events indeed in and around the River Thames, in the early 19th
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More about Lloyd Shepherd...

Other Books in the Series

Charles Horton (3 books)
  • The Poisoned Island
  • Savage Magic
The Poisoned Island Savage Magic

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