The Devil’s Acre
In 1833, Dean Tuckworth unwillingly leaves his beloved village of Bellminster for his first visit to London. Accompanied by his colleague, the self-satisfied Reverend Mortimer, they are seeking funds to rebuild their fire-damaged cathedral. Making it safe to inhabit will cost a fortune which means “begging” at a dinner party given for eager supplicants at the gracious London home of Hamlin Price, a gentleman philanthropist.
The dinner turns into a murder, yielding a disfigured corpse and a mildly disturbed philanthropist. As Dean Tuckworth’s sharp eye notices clues that may identify the body, Hamlin Price notices Tuckworth’s scrutiny and offers a large donation if the Dean will simply return to his village and leave everything to the Bow Street police.
The Dean’s newfound friend, Leigh Hunt the poet, agrees to help him investigate the case, although this raises the ire of Hamlin Price. Price believes the corpse is his secretary, Malcolm Wick, yet Tuckworth is suspicious. Stubborn curiosity lures the Dean and Hunt into danger and layers of evil they could never have imagined existed.
This novel is difficult not to like, despite a ponderous opening chapter in which the author uses prose that would have done Bulwer-Lytton proud. Then the characters take shape, and the story pulls the reader in to the conflict of good struggling against evil. Tuckworth not only fleshes out the evildoer, but dares to help him back to salvation. Yet are some crimes too terrible for repentance?