F.R.'s Reviews > Hawksmoor

Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd
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Jan 12, 2011

really liked it

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, always keep the structure intierely in mind as you inscribe it.” It’s an excellent read once you get into it; but one can imagine there were a lot of people in 1985 looking for a good thriller for the train, who were excited by the blurb, but scared to death by the opening page. So hats off to Ackroyd, I say! You wouldn’t want it all the time, but it’s good for an author to sometimes make things difficult for his readers.

Nicholas Dyer is an assistant to Christopher Wren, working on six new London Churches in the reign of Queen Anne. He is not, however, the man he appears to be, and gradually his compulsions emerge and murder seems unavoidable. Meanwhile, in Twentieth Century London, police detective Nicholas Hawksmoor is investigating a series of murders committed at Dyer’s churches. Murders which, although he doesn’t know it, have strong echoes of the past.

(I’m evidently a dunce when it comes to architecture by the way. Otherwise I’d have known, before my Google search, that the name of Christopher Wren’s assistant who worked on these churches was actually Nicholas Hawksmoor.)

The way the two narratives weave together is superbly done, with rhymes, phrases, sensations and character names echoing through the two time periods. (Stonehenge is placed expertly into both the 18th and 20th century segments. Wren’s and Dyer’s visit to the monument is particularly brilliant.) There’s a creepy atmosphere built gradually throughout, so that even though the ending is slightly anticlimactic, one still turns the final page with a chill.
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01/31/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Paul Bryant look forward to a review - I remember this one being really creepy and I ended up thinking I hadn't really understood it.


F.R. I think you mentioned in one of your reviews once about your mother reviewing the font the book was published in, and if it was too small refusing to read it.

She would genuinely hate this edition of Hawskmoor then.

(If it wasn't you who wrote that, and so this story has nothing to do with your mum, I do apologise.)


Paul Bryant yes, that was me!


F.R. Well remembered me!

If you do recommend Hawksmoor to your Mum, check which edition she gets.


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