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The Devil in the Marshalsea

(Tom Hawkins #1)

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  2,877 ratings  ·  432 reviews
London, 1727, and Tom Hawkins is about to fall from his heaven of card games, brothels and coffee-houses into the hell of a debtors' prison.

The Marshalsea is a savage world of its own, with simple rules: those with family or friends who can lend them a little money may survive in relative comfort. Those with none will starve in squalor and disease. And those who try to esc
Paperback, 384 pages
Published August 28th 2014 by Hodder Paperbacks (first published 2014)
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3.94  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,877 ratings  ·  432 reviews

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Oct 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tricky, tricky treat! Hodgson serves up a rare delight in this story of a young man's desperate endeavors in the debtor's prison of Marshalsea in London in the early 1700s.The author based her account on a memoir written in the time period by a debtor who lived there and includes the actual scoundrels who ruled "the Castle" in those treacherous years.Her main character is a thoughtless ne'er-do-well, named Hawkins, who expelled from his middle class life by his father, is on his own in London, l ...more
May 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Set in a debtor's gaol in London 1727, The Devil in the Marshalsea provides for an insightful look at the harsh conditions the inhabitants had to ensure as a result of not being able to pay pitiful fines.

There's an island-like mentality to the Marshalsea, as the gaol grounds separates itself from the world around it; It comprises a unique small community complete with a barber, saloon, tea house and other traders. What's interesting is that some of the souls who inhabit the Marshalsea are there
Oct 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
This one started a bit slowly for me but about half way it gathered momentum and then raced through to an intriguing conclusion.
Set in the London debtor's prison of Marshalsea in 1727, the story follows the woes of a young man who has his entire worldly wealth stolen and ends up being arrested at the request of his creditors. The whole book takes place over only a few days but to our main character, Tom, it seems like a life time.
The Marshalsea Prison did actually exist and the book has been th
May 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Find this and other reviews at: http://flashlightcommentary.blogspot....

No you aren't imagining it. That is a five star rating up there. I understand it's a bit of a shock, but books like The Devil in the Marshalsea don't come along every day and even I give credit where due.

Hard as it might be to believe, this one sucked me from the start. Author Antonia Hodgson hits the ground running, setting a blistering pace that kept me engaged to the final page, but momentum was far from the deciding fact
Sep 30, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2014
Disappointing. I think that one word summarizes my experience reading The Devil in the Marshalsea.

While the prose were smooth, the writing competent, and the over-all premise intriguing, the story and the characters were severely lacking.

Forget the fact that I couldn't imagine the protagonist as a man...or a woman for that matter. He felt like a man written by a woman trying to sound like a man. The "character" flaws of this novel went much deeper. Not one character seemed to move beyond the s
Amy Bruno
Yay, I finally won a Goodreads giveaway!
Jan 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This fantastic novel was recommended by a GR friend who is also an author of some repute. 5 stars awarded by this lady has to be thoroughly well deserved and having now listened to the audio version I was not disappointed. In fact it's hard to believe that this is a debut novel, so expertly and beautifully written as it is.

Tom Hawkins is a young man who has slipped off the straight and narrow, originally intended for the church, he has instead fallen into vices not exactly conducive to that cal
Feb 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a murder mystery with a difference, being set almost entirely within the confines of an eighteenth century debtors' prison. Our narrator, Tom Hawkins, is a young man who has rebelled against his clergyman father's plans for his future and is enjoying himself in London, spending all his money on drinking and gambling. After a big win at the card tables one night, Tom is attacked on his way home and his winnings are stolen, leaving him unable to pay his debts. Taken to the notorious Marsha ...more
Mar 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This atmospheric , and enjoyable, debut novel is set in 1727 London. Tom Hawkins is a bit of a rake – having argued with his reverend father, he has ended up in London living by his wits and skills at gambling. When we meet him he is endeavouring to raise the money he needs to avoid a warrant out for his arrest, due to a debt of just over twenty pounds which he owes to his landlord. Having won half the money he needs on the turn of a card he is relieved and joyful and ignores the advice of his o ...more
Aug 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Devil in the Marshalsea is the first in a historical crime series by Antonia Hodgson, featuring Tom Hawkins. Set in 1727 in the debtor’s prison Marshalsea in London, it is all about the hunt for a killer!

Imagine owing money to creditors and falling on hard times. In 1727, you would be sent to a debtor’s prison, which could possibly be the death of you. Debtor’s prisons were run for profit and prisoners were expected to pay for meals and accommodation. They were forced to negotiate their debt
Apr 27, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries
Yet another mediocre book that got rave reviews because the author is a senior editor at so-and-so publishing company. I kinda expect literary critics to not be whores of the publishing industry, or at least so damn susceptible to publishing industry advertising. But they are, and it's making me really angry. This book was meant to be historically accurate about a time period (18th Century England) that I studied in graduate school, but it had the atmosphere of a junior college cafetria instead. ...more
Mar 23, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very decent book. I did enjoy it, although the climatic points fell a tad flat. A good read and love the historical context.
Winter feels like the perfect time to read fiction set in 18th Century London -- it was a world of dark and discomfort and this season with no light makes it a tiny bit easier to channel that lost world. It does help that as I read about muck, disease, death, rot, and brutal violence that I am sitting in my centrally heated house with enough to eat, though, thankfully, far less to drink (alcohol and coffee being the primary options on offer).

Antonia Hodgson's debut catches the flavor of the era
J.A. Ironside
Sep 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
I'd somehow missed this book until I saw Antonia give a keynote address at #FoW14. I really enjoyed walking on the disreputable side of Georgian London - it was a fresh perspective in a historical novel with just the right balance of antiquated language and more modern intonation. I have to say I knew three chapters in who exactly had betrayed Hawkins so that he ended up in a debtors prison. I think that says more about my nasty, suspicious mind than it does about the author 's ability to foresh ...more
This should have gripped - it should have made me shudder - it should have done something more than it did. This needed a lot more time and better pace - more detail, more dark, more grime, more depth - in fact it needed more pages to really do justice to the period and the place. Solid - I guess, well researched - don't doubt it - but it lacked that quality that can make the dark historical novel totally immersive - and that was a bit of a shame.
Cat Lumb
Mar 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014-reads
I'm not the biggest fan of historical fiction, nor do I revel in crime fiction, but somehow this novel drew me in and would not let go. It is well written, fast paced and yet so very detailed in its description. The text provides a vivid picture of what a debtor's jail was like and the brutality that went on there, all based on numerous sources the author has woven into the narrative for us.

As a result I read the entire book in less than 24hrs, so intrigued by the mystery of it and enamoured wit
Aug 27, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not at all sure what I thought of this. I read it quickly enough and it kept my interest. It certainly wasn't one of those books where I am constantly checking to see how many pages I have left or how long the torment must go on for before I can start something else, BUT there was something irritating about it and it's irritating me even more not knowing what.

The story was tight and well researched. I was happy with the setting, characterisations and plot. It was just a little, how can I put
Rating: 3.5 stars
Beth (bibliobeth)
I usually try not to judge a book by its cover and, when I have and am proved wrong by the brilliance of the writing (case in point, Me Before You - Jojo Moyes), I hang my head in shame and promise never to do it again. However, I was floored again by this fantastic debut novel. To be totally honest, if I had seen this particular novel on the shelves and read the synopsis, I may not have picked it up. The synopsis and cover art do not do justice to the story within The Devil In The Marshalsea an ...more
Benjamin Thomas
London, 1727…on the eve of the coronation of George II. Young Tom Hawkins, refusing to follow in his father’s footsteps as a clergyman, has instead been eeking out a life as a gambler, a rake, and a chaser of women. But when he finds himself in debt he must wager big in order to keep himself outside of debtor’s prison. Surprisingly, he wins that big gamble but on the way back to his rooms, he is mugged and is thusly tossed into the “Marshalsea”.

Life in debtor’s prison is just as harsh and cruel
Katy Noyes
Oct 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars

Another different Richard and Judy choice. Loved this. Even the squalid, icky and upsetting parts.

Period-wise, it's fantastically detailed and real. Set in 1720s London, I could see the prison, clothes, pubs, squalor and hopelessness. Language-wise, it felt like a contemporary novel a lot of the time (it certainly didn't read like Dickens), but this did make it an easy read.

Despite raising enough funds to stave off his landlord, a robbery sets 'gentleman' Tom Hawkins up for a spell in a
Michelle Miller (True Book Addict)
Wow! That's the word I will use to describe this book. An unputdownable romp into history and the world of a murderer.

Set in 18th century Georgian London and, more specifically, in a debtor's prison called the Marshalsea, this book took me completely by surprise. While I have been reading some great historical titles of late, I'm afraid I found myself getting into a kind of reading slump. This book has definitely pulled me out. It has been awhile since I've read such an atmospheric book. As I w
The setting and rich detail of this book bumped it up to three stars for me. The murder mystery itself seemed a bit of a mystery to the author at times. Anyone and everyone was a suspect at some point and it felt a little like the author herself didn't settle on the culprit until the very end of the book.

The book benefits from meticulous research. Marshalsea Debtor's Prison is a horrendous place and our hero, Tom Hawkins, gets himself into all kinds of scrapes. There are plenty of colourful cha
Barbara Monajem
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous. Read the other glowing reviews. I don't have anything to add, except that I bought the second one right away.
Marguerite Kaye
Apr 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this - thanks so much to Wendy L for bringing it to my attention - and I'm delighted to see there's a follow up, which I'll definitely be reading.

Set in the 1720s, this book shows us Hogarth's London, of Rookeries and gin shops, cut purses and coffee houses, a world where you'll do anything to survive, where morality is a very subjective matter indeed, and where life is very, very cheap. Our main protagonist Tom is a rake and a gambler, but he's rather cleverly also the moral c
I like a good historical thriller and this one was pretty good. The historical period this time is the early Georgians - 1727 to be precise.

The central character, Tom Hawkins, is the rakish, feckless elder son of a wealthy clergyman. He was set to follow in his father's footsteps but realised that the Church was not for him. We meet Tom, having won just enough at cards to pay off his immediate debts and save himself from the bailiffs. But all goes horribly wrong - he is robbed on his way home, i
Jo Reason
Nov 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 4-star-reads
Great, great book,I always think historical fiction must be hard to write with all the research required and this is a great book, The Devil in the Marshalsea is all about the now non existent Marshalsea Debtors prison in Southwark in 1727. Tom Hawkins is a bit of a free spirit estranged from his family and gets himself into debt, caught and imprisoned, the place is horrible and the author makes you feel as if you are also inside, “shudders”. There are characters and locations like the that were ...more
This is a mystery set in the Marshalsea – a London debtors’ prison - in 1727. Tom Hawkins is sent to Marshalsea for not paying debts. Whilst there, he has to solve the murder of another inmate. The killer is still on the loose and Tom has to work out which of the many shady characters living in the Marshalsea is involved.

I did not enjoy this book at all. The writing is dull and the characters under-developed – they are either caricatures or plot-devices. I was bored throughout and didn’t care a
Oct 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoy reading historical fiction but that combined with a murder mystery, meant that this is a book I would never have picked up to read had it not been a Bookclub choice. Now having finished it, I have to admit that it was better than I anticipated. The period details and setting are meticulously described and I shuddered more than once as I was transported inside the debtors prison of the C18. The novel is set over just a period of a few days that the protagonist Tom Hawkins spends in this ...more
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Antonia Hodgson was born and grew up in Derby. She studied English at the University of Leeds. Her first novel, The Devil in the Marshalsea, won the CWA Historical Dagger 2014 and was shortlisted for several other awards. Its sequel, The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins, was released to widespread acclaim in 2015. Her third novel, A Death at Fountains Abbey, comes out in August 2016.

Other books in the series

Tom Hawkins (3 books)
  • The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins (Tom Hawkins, #2)
  • A Death at Fountains Abbey
“Bullies are just men who don't know they are cowards, of course.” 16 likes
“I had an appointment with a ghost. It seemed impolite not to attend.” 7 likes
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