Review: The English Monster, Or, The Melancholy Transactions of William Ablass by Lloyd Shepherd
Author: Lloyd Shepherd
Publisher: Washington Square Press 2012
Labels: Ratcliffe Highway Murders, 19th Century, Murder, Suspense, Investigation, Slavery, Historical Fiction, Serial Killer
Rating: 3-4 Stars (Sorry still can't make up my mind if it's a 3 or 4)
|Painting of Wapping by James Whistler|
I recently read and reviewed Murder As A Fine Art by David Downing. Last Saturday I was in my favorite used book store and came across a copy of The English Monster, with the same subject of the Ratcliffe Highway Murder's.
I had to read it:
- I was intrigued by the subject.
- I wanted to see where the author would take me in "their" story.
- I wanted to compare the two fictional stories.
- I could not pass up a chance to read both books in the same week.
The story has two pivotal points in its history, beginning in the late 1500's, and then traveling forward to December 1811 (the month of the Ratcliffe Highway Murder's). In 1585 I was introduced to a young handsome man named Billy Ablass. He has left his young wife, and was hired to work aboard a ship named Jesus of Lubeck (known the rest of the book as simply Jesus). Billy is anxious and ambitious to make money, lots of money. He does not intend to be gone long. Yet his adventure turns sour.
Early and mid December of 1811, two sets of murder's take place on the east end of London. This swampy land was called Wapping. It was a low geographical area where water had to be drained out, then it would flood, then the area drained out again. Eventually wharves were built, houses, fishing businesses.
Crime was common in this area. The gruesome Ratcliffe Highway Murder's shocked everyone. People were frightened. They asked what monster could have done this?
Charles Horton is the constable of the new police office. The scant knowledge of this type of investigator work during the early part of 19th century requires Charles to be a man of insight and wisdom.
When I first began reading this book I wondered how these two time periods would tie in? I told myself to settle back and try and enjoy the story. It would take a while before I had the aha moment.
What I liked about this story:
- Authors great imagination at writing two stories from two time periods and putting it all together.
- Detective work in the early part of 19th Century.
- Author transported me, through the descriptions, to the time periods, including the types of people involved: pirates, police, people who lived in Wapping, and slave trader's.
- Evil and the depraved were realistic, frightening.
- Displayed the cruel and tragic consequences man's inhumanity to another.
- I wondered if symbolism was used in naming the ship Jesus? Jesus is the savior of the world. Was the ship Jesus to be looked at as Billy's savior, to save him from a life of humanity, and poverty. Was it his ship to eternity?
- Lewdness in Billy's life. It was NOT so much the lewdness, but his spiraling demise was so sad to me. Tearfully sad. This part of the story showed just how far Billy had surrendered himself into giving up and in to depravity.
- Back and forth too much with the time periods.
- Coarse talking. I'm very aware that pirate's did not talk like Sunday school teachers but it still made me wince.
Murder As A Fine Art is my favorite. It was written more grounded, meaning realistic. It was a more readable book, easy to keep up with the time period. I learned more about detective work. I learned about the methodical work of a serial killer. I enjoyed having a strong female character. Over-all an excellent read.
Link @ Amazon:
Another book I've seen mentioned swirling around these two Ratcliffe Highway Murder's themed books I've recently read.
The Invention of Murder by Judith Flanders.