The Newgate Jig

Written by Ann Featherstone
Review by Sara Wilson

“There is nothing more dreadful, surely, than seeing one’s own father hung.” But that’s just what young Barney Kevill does. Afterwards, he vows revenge on the people who he believes set his father up, but in the meantime it is vital he avoids the sinister Nasty Man whilst gathering the evidence he needs.

Bob Chapman is unaware of these events and the terrible toll they will take on his life and livelihood. He is a small time entertainer along with his two dogs, Brutus and Nero. His childhood has been ravaged by grinding poverty and sorrow, but with his dogs and his theatre friends he has found a safe niche. But then it all goes awry with the arrival of the Nasty Man and the dark and awful secrets he hides.

Fans of Sarah Waters will immediately be attracted to this latest offering from Ann Featherstone with her sordid and melancholy depiction of Victorian London life. This is not a London full of diamond geezers, but a place rife with poverty, perversion and peril. Bob Chapman is the good and true heart of the novel, but even he is not immune to sorrow and is dogged by an aching loneliness only alleviated by the bond he shares with his beloved dogs. The Newgate Jig is a dark novel with little in the way of hope offered in the closing pages. Beautifully written, highly literate but terribly sad.