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The English Monster

(Charles Horton #1)

3.47  ·  Rating details ·  821 ratings  ·  154 reviews
In the east end of Regency London, two families lie butchered. Residents of the notorious Ratcliffe Highway, the victims bear the mark of unprecedented brutality.

Panic sweeps the country as its public cries for justice. But these murders stem from an older horror, its source a sea voyage two centuries old. In a ship owned by Queen Elizabeth herself, a young man embarks on
Paperback, 398 pages
Published September 27th 2012 by Simon & Schuster Ltd (first published March 1st 2012)
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Average rating 3.47  · 
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 ·  821 ratings  ·  154 reviews

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Mar 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
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
Bill Lynas
Jun 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
For a debut novel Lloyd Shepherd's The English Monster is a seamlessly entertaining mixture of fact & fiction. Set in two time zones, which eventually link together, there are well drawn characters & good dialogue. I loved Shepherd's description of someone's face, when he says that they looked like a rat sucking on a lemon.
The 1500 story is a sea faring adventure featuring some interesting real life characters, but my favourite parts of the book are those set around the Ratcliffe Highway murders
Essie Fox
Nov 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 15, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
An absolutely brilliant premise that was well researched; however, outside of that I am hard-pressed to say anything else positive about this debacle. I am at a complete loss as to why there are so many 4 and 5 star reviews, but what do I know? It certainly isn't the first time I've been in the minority. For me, the book was just plain boring. On and on about nothing that pertains to the story, and very little about any of the characters that consequently I never connected with.
Nov 29, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Katie Ward
Feb 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 09, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
DNF. 14%. This might have been a great novel - it is clearly based on wide research and knowledge, and there's an interesting murder mystery in it somewhere. There may even be a few potentially-interesting characters in it, but the writer has chosen to focus all of his creative energy on describing roads, walls, architecture, and suchlike. He is in fact so obsessed with these, that he devotes pages to their descriptions, on the expense of anything else. So by now I now pretty much all about the ...more
Jan 06, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
When I saw 'The English Monster' on the bookshelves and then read the blurb I thought that it would be a good read with its background of the real-life story of the Ratcliffe Highway murders. Sadly I was wrong.

There seems to be (I have to say that because, despite my best efforts I was unable to finish the book) two strands to the story, one set in the 16th/17th century and one set in the 19th century. How the two come together I was trying to work out when I abandoned the book as taking too muc
Melanie Trevelyan
May 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Jun 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nookbooks, 2014
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
David Cross
Feb 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Michael Harling
Nov 08, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Mark Richard
Jul 06, 2019 rated it did not like it
Once upon a time, I wrote a couple of novels. They were neither good nor of a decent length.....HMmmmm... I thought, MAYBE if I smush them together and somehow link them at the end nobody will notice.....

Well, this is what has happened here.... And I noticed.

A very dull 1800s murder mystery with a couple of constables trying their hand at this new thing called 'detective work'

And a young man on a huge boat in the 1500s taking Africans from their homeland and selling them as slaves for a nice fat
Nov 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 05, 2017 rated it liked it
I struggled with this book. For me it was trying to do too much and ended up not doing enough. The secret of Long Billy was unnecessary and took up too much of the plot. I understand the author's desire to place slavery in its context but that whole part of the book just seemed like research showing off - I found out all of this information in my background reading and I am going to shoehorn it in somehow. It did nothing to progress the plot. As a consequence the actual meat of the story had to ...more
D.E. Meredith
May 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You can practically lick the sea salt off these pages. What an exuberant, daring, swashbuckling, deftly written, savagely delivered (epecially towards the end) story. Love the gothic, Frankensteinesque twist but I'm saying no more. Reminded me a bit of David Mitchel in parts. Patrick O'Brian, too. Shepherds not afraid to take a few risks, like Mitchel when it comes to pushing the envelope prose-wise and I like that in a writer. Lots of thematic ideas here, bursting at the seams to get your histo ...more
Aug 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
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.
Sinead Fitzgibbon
May 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Feb 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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.
Mar 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Cathy Cole
Sep 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Janette Fleming
May 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Perferct review that I cannot improve on...

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
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.
Jan 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
Mar 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
This extremely ambitious but flawed novel never quite manages to deliver. Based on the real life 1811 Ratcliffe Highway Murders, it begins in June 1585 when a young man arrives in Plymouth. Billy Ablass is ambitious and likable at the start but takes a seriously wrong turn in his choice of career. In the other narrative thread (London, 1811) Charles Horton of the Thames River Police is faced with the task of solving a foul murder. One of the novel’s strong points is the period detail but the aut ...more
Jan 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
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
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I'm the author of The English Monster, The Poisoned Island and Savage Magic.

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Other books in the series

Charles Horton (4 books)
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  • Savage Magic
  • The Detective and the Devil

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