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3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  1,883 ratings  ·  176 reviews
In 18th-century London, squalor vies with elegance as architect Nicholas Dyer is commissioned to build new churches in the aftermath of the Great Fire. CID Detective Hawksmoor, 250 years later, investigates a series of murders that have occurred on the sites of certain 18th-century London churches.
Hardcover, 217 pages
Published January 1st 1986 by Harpercollins (first published 1985)
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Aug 19, 2011 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone wishing to exercise their ye olde english voice
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
Inspector Morse meets the Time Travellers Wife with a hint of Grand Designs. But without the actual in-plot benefits of inexplicable time travel, a love interest or Kevin McCloud.

Ah London, the Big Smoke, the Great Wen, the sunken, scum-ridden, grease-spotted, pitted underbelly of the Old World. New York is referred to as the Big Apple, which implies shiny, fresh-ripened juiciness. If London was a fruit it would probably be that odd-looking stinky one that comes
One has to admire Peter Ackroyd for not following the easy path. A book which has devil worship, murder and old London landmarks seems almost tailor-made for the Dan Brown crowd (okay, this was published long before Brown became a sensation, but on paper it would look a dream for any PR department), but then he goes and writes the first chapter – and, indeed, every odd numbered chapter – in daunting 1700’s English. “And so let us beginne, and, as the Fabrick takes its Shape in front of you, alwa ...more
Derek Davis
Sep 10, 2010 Derek Davis rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: to anyone who likes an edge of darkness in superb writing
This tale of the merged identities of a 17th century London architect and a contemporary police detective is wracked with darkness and terror. Few novels have ever had such a smashing impact on me, leaving me close to collapse. Magnificent style by Ackroyd (as always) but not offset by his often too-cleverness. It won major awards, then seems to have been largely forgotten. Come on, lads, lets not let it get away.
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
If this was a movie, this is what most likely what your experience of watching it will be.

It opens with a dark, ancient-looking world, so you begin with a quiver of excitement. Actually, it'll be London, in the early 18th century. The characters, and the way they speak, look and sound queer (on paper, its a very old english with lots of weird spellings and words with their first letters capitalized, like : "There is no Light without Darknesse and no Substance without Shaddowe..."). Sort of where
You wouldn't think that an old-fashioned way of writing, as in the odd-numbered chapters of this book, could put me off. I mean, I've learnt Anglo-Saxon and Old Icelandic, and Middle English is easier for me than a post-modern novel. Oddly enough, though, this has been called a post-modern novel (though the author, apparently, somewhat disagrees), so maybe that's why.

Actually, though I found those sections off-putting, I found them better written and more interesting than the modern sections. I'
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
I first read this when I was still in college, in a copy borrowed from the British Library. It seemed brilliant and just a little obscure back then, and my impression hasn't changed much. Ackroyd weaves a complex web of allusions and resonances that propel a tale of two oddly parallel lives in London in the 18th century and the 20th century. It's the story of how 7 churches in London were secretly constructed on occult principles as focuses for dark energies; the result seems to be a sort of war ...more
What an amazing book! Profound, intriguing, emotionally heart-felt, disturbing. Everything you could want out of book. Which is to say - an incredible novel... but not for everyone.

Reading HAWKSMOOR heartily rang the area of my aesthetic bells that J.G. Ballard or Steven Millhauser also chime - and I can distinctly remember being dismayed by reviews on Goodreads that dismissed those authors with "unlikeable characters", "too cold", "too British", "too removed" or, in Millhauser's case "more inte
As an architectural historian, Ackroyd's play with real characters and actual places is especially intriguing. The real 18th century architect Nicholas Hawksmoor becomes the fictitious Nicholas Dyer, heavily involved with the occult. Hawksmoor the architect (a favorite of mine and always on my "top ten" whose works are high on my bucket list of must see buildings) designed six London churches. Ackroyd has the fictional Dyer designing seven churches, the last one of which was conjured in my imagi ...more
You stand before something of this caliber, of this infinite and much-appreciated majesty, like the monkeys at the beginning of "2001" --in full awe of the macabre monolith, black and Godly, for its monstrous magnetism and awful set of implications...

I LOVE THIS novel--it makes my hair stand on end and goosebumps begin to form...

This is avant garde, and nearer perfection than any novel in recent memory (I'd probably have to contend with Graham Greene's "Quiet American" or "End of the Affair" fo
It's been a long time since I read this, but I remember the impact it had on me clearly. I live and work in London and know well many of the streets and buildings on which the novel is based. You can't live in a place that has so much history and not wonder about the lives and events that preceding generations experienced there. Ackroyd takes this wonder and weaves an intricate story linking the past, present, concepts of evil around the real buildings that Hawksmoor created. I read this on a ve ...more
Mar 07, 2011 Sue marked it as worth-trying-again-someday
I simply got stuck in this book and I'm not sure how much was me and how much was the book. Parts were interesting but parts seemed so labored. I really wanted to like it. Oh well. I may try this again in a few months and see if it hits me any differently. Til then, there are so many other things I want to read.
From BBC Radio 4:

1/2: London, 1711: An architect sets to work on some new churches, but few could imagine his dreadful purpose. Stars Philip Jackson.

2/2: Eighteenth-century architect Nicholas Dyer is under suspicion, and a series of modern murders baffle Hawksmoor. Stars Philip Jackson.
Described as "a poet's novel", Hawksmoor is a daring, uncompromising experiment in narrative time. Inspired in Iain Sinclair's Lud Heat (1975), it fulfills the psychogeographical premise that places are imbued with a certain energy, and buildings, such as the Hawksmoor churches in London, are shrines to the particular design of the architect, scripts which are destined to be reenacted again and again throughout history. A fascinating play on the theme of the double and parallel worlds, Hawksmoor ...more
It seems like such a good idea, two timeline's interweaving, kind of a crime novel crossed with something like The Time Traveller's Wife with a bit of obscure Satanism thrown in for good measure. But, and I'm not sure if this was Ackroyd's intentions, it doesn't quite come off like that. In reality, or whatever world Ackroyd is writing about, it comes across as a split-personality disorder across the centuries. Don't get me wrong, for the right audience, it is completely worth digging through th ...more
This is the first book I've read by Peter Ackroyd, and it will not be the last. This is a fantastic work, strangely reminding me of an elevated Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson. (they take place in a similar time span). This book is denser than Quicksilver of course, and will prove to many readers to be a difficult read in the beginning. With perseverance comes revelation, as the murder mystery tale comes to fruition.
Brief synopsis: Nicholas Dyer designs six churches for the city of London. He i
Though this is a fairly short book at 217 pages, it is not an easy read, in part because the historical chapters are written in olde English which takes some getting used to. When I reached part two, I decided to stop and begin reading the book over again: I found I was understanding the language a bit better but I also realized there were coincidences across time to which I should be paying closer attention. I also wanted to acquaint myself with the actual historical events of the time period b ...more
I feel as though I ought to like Hawksmoor more than I actually did. Perhaps if I'd read more about it first and seen the volume of praise for it as a post-modern novel, I would have come in with a different expectation - but the truth of it is, I am not a fan of post-modernism, and I have yet to read a post-modern work that really appealed to me.

Half of Hawksmoor, it must be said, is fucking brilliant. Peter Ackroyd chose to write in a full 18th century style, and the work he put into that styl
Perry Whitford
In 1711 architect Nicholas Dyer is commissioned to design and build seven new churches in the Cities of London and Westminster, under the watchful eye of Sir Christopher Wren. Dyer believes in the corrupt nature of mankind, reverences spirits and the mystical, worships the Devil and has a diabolical agenda: 'there is no Light without Darknesse and no Substance without Shaddowe'.

Detective Nicholas Hawksmoor is the investigating officer for a series of uncanny murders committed at those same churc
The book begins in the early 18th century with Nicholas Dyer, an architect under Christopher Wren, who was in charge of building seven churches in the city of London. In each church he buried a horrible secret. Next chapter jumps to the 1980’s and introduces us to Detective Nicholas Hawksmoor who is the lead inspector trying to solve the recent murders at each of these churches. Ackroyd then alternates each chapter between the two times and main characters. Are you confused yet? Just to add a to ...more
So the blurb on the back of the book had almost zero to do with the plot, which involves the Plague and the Great Fire of London, and an 18th century Satan-worshiping church builder who sacrifices children, and mysterious present day murders at those churches which may or may not be being perpetrated by a ghost... it's a deeply weird book. It's also one of those books that was clearly written for other writers. He's put together the narrative like a piece of old-fashioned clockwork, and it's bre ...more
Helen Kitson
"This mundus tenebrosus, this shaddowy world of Mankind, is sunk into Night; there is not a Field without its Spirits, nor a City without its Daemons, and the Lunaticks speak Prophesies while the Wise men fall into the Pitte. We are all in the Dark, one with another. And, as the Inke stains the Paper on which it is spilt and slowly spreads to Blot out the Characters, so the Contagion of darkness and malefaction grows apace until all becomes unrecognizable."

In 1711, Nicholas Dyer is commissioned
Wow! Picked at random from the local library. The first book on the novels shelf. What luck! Starts well, gets better and ends just superbly. Apparently I should have read this in the 80s, but somehow missed it. I'm not capable of doing this book justice in a brief review, but there's a review by Will Self as the preface to the edition I read - [the writing] "surges off the page to invade and then derange your senses". 'nuff said; I agree.
Brilliant, dark and brooding, this is one that will leave you a little jumpy and nervous about shadows. Peter Ackroyd effortlessly brings his vast knowledge of London to bear in a tale told partly in the present, and partly in a time when London was betwixt superstition and enlightenment, emerging from years of plague and the great fire to be rebuilt. The language is beautiful and develops atmosphere like a fog in its switches from present to 18th century (so ridiculously hard to do well), the p ...more
Thank sweet baby back ribs, I am done. This was a terribly uneven book for me. In some ways the writing was compelling and seductive. But if my attention wavers for mere seconds, all was lost and it took me weeks to fund the rhythm again.

I will chalk it up to my reading slump and not the author. Although I had hoped Hawksmoor would have been a bit more like DI Morse than creepy architect Nicholas Dyers.

Side note: Penguin's street art series is still one of my favorite cover series. I now own fo
Keith Davis
A very interesting idea, but somewhat confusing in its execution. The novel has parallel narratives about a police detective investigating a series of murders in contemporary London and of Nicholas Hawksmoor rebuilding the churches of London destroyed in the great fire of 1666. Hawksmoor is an real historical figure who filled his churches with pagan and masonic symbols. Ackroyd portrays Hawksmoor as a Satanist who consecrates each church with a murder. The 17th century murders parallel the 20th ...more
Angus McKeogh
Plot-wise a little scattershot and the first 90 pages was really tough to get through. Once it reached the murder mystery part however it got really good.
Barrett Brassfield
What can one really say about Nicholas Hawksmoor or Nicholas Dyer other than their lives are separated by 250 years and yet in the events described by the author their lives aren't really that separated at all, neither by time nor space as it turns out. Ackroyd's novel is not a simple read that flows along a nice straight linear plot-line. Oh no. Hawskmoor quite creatively mixes the very different worlds our main characters inhabit, with many nice stylistic touches that lend a unique authenticit ...more
An architect of churches who worked under Christopher Wren, Nicholas Hawksmoor's work was not really recognized until the early 20th century.
Ackroyd, a highly regarded man of letters in England (yet I must admit I had scarcely heard of him) takes this historical snippet and very freely fictionalizes.

Hawksmoor, working in the early 18th century, is recast under the name Nicholas Dyer, and enrolled in a Satanic cult with the mission to spill blood on the foundation of every church he builds.

The na
Having read Chatterton, previously and skimmed some other Ackroyd work, I was uncertain about embarking on another of his novels so soon after. I was glad that I did. There is a darkness about Hawksmoor that reminds me of the smog and dark alleys described in many Victorian mystery tales. It has one foot in history and the rest and most of the body in fiction.

I have given it three stars because, although I consider it a readable and interesting book, I would imagine it is not for everyone, even
I really have to stop reading all books containing the word 'homunculous'. That means all of Peter Ackroyd's books. I can't remember what induced me to buy this book, but it has been on the shelf for a number of years and now I have read it I can only ask 'Why?'. Maybe it was the rave reviews on the cover blurb - none of which bear any relationship to the book that I have just read.

My problem with this book is: I find that Peter Ackroyd seems to have an interesting imaginative engagement with th
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Peter Ackroyd CBE is an English novelist and biographer with a particular interest in the history and culture of London.

Peter Ackroyd's mother worked in the personnel department of an engineering firm, his father having left the family home when Ackroyd was a baby. He was reading newspapers by the age of 5 and, at 9, wrote a play about Guy Fawkes. Reputedly, he first realized he was gay at the age
More about Peter Ackroyd...
London: The Biography The Canterbury Tales: A Retelling London Under: The Secret History Beneath the Streets Shakespeare: The Biography Foundation: The History of England from Its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors (The History of England, #1)

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“I have liv'd long enough for others, like the Dog in the Wheel, and it is now the Season to begin for myself: I cannot change that Thing call'd Time, but I can alter its Posture and, as Boys do turn a looking-glass against the Sunne, so I will dazzle you all.” 9 likes
“He stood beneath the white tower, and looked up at it with that mournful expression which his face always carried in repose: for one moment he thought of climbing up its cracked and broken stone, and then from its summit screaming down at the silent city as a child might scream at a chained animal.” 7 likes
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