The Devil in the Marshalsea

Written by Antonia Hodgson
Review by Edward James

Antonia Hodgson is no stranger to the literary world, being currently Editor-in-Chief at Little Brown UK. She has proved that she can spot a good novel and promote it; now she shows us she can write one.

The Devil in the Marshalsea is a whodunnit in the classic formula: a murder is committed in a closed setting, creating a finite list of suspects; an outsider is called in to solve the mystery; the place is awash with motives, intrigues and further crimes until the murderer is unmasked, usually the least likely suspect. In this novel the closed setting is a prison, the Marshalsea debtors’ prison at the southern end of London Bridge in the year 1727. The outside investigator is a newly committed prisoner, commissioned by the Governor. The plot is superbly crafted, keeping the reader guessing to the end, the characters are people we care about, and the setting is so well drawn one wonders whether the author herself ever served time in the Marshalsea.

The closest parallel I know to this novel is C. J. Sansom’s Dissolution. If you liked that, and tens of thousands have, then I am sure you will enjoy this just as much. Hodgson has promised us a series, and it promises to be as successful as the Sansom series.