Wednesday 23 September 2020

BLOG TOUR: People of Abandoned Character - Clare Whitfield

He is my husband.
To honour and obey.
Until murder do us part.

London, 1888: Susannah rushes into marriage to a young and wealthy surgeon. After a passionate honeymoon, she returns home with her new husband wrapped around her little finger. But then everything changes. His behaviour becomes increasingly volatile and violent. He stays out all night, returning home bloodied and full of secrets.

Lonely and frustrated, Susannah starts following the gruesome reports of a spate of murders in Whitechapel. But as the killings continue, her mind takes her down the darkest path imaginable. Every time her husband stays out late, another victim is found dead.

Is it coincidence? Or is he the man they call Jack the Ripper?

What did I think?

As one of England's most famous murderers, Jack the Ripper still continues to fascinate us over 130 years later.  His identity remains unknown and Clare Whitfield has chosen to base her amazing debut novel around this, with Susannah Lancaster suspecting that her husband is the Whitechapel murderer.  I have to say that I absolutely adored this book; I raced through it faster than I have ever read historical fiction, devouring every single perfectly crafted word.

Susannah Chapman, a nurse at The London Hospital, is the envy of her peers when she marries dashing Dr. Thomas Lancaster, who is 5 years her junior.  Forced to give up her job as a nurse now that she is married, she finds herself lady of the house with servants and a creepy housekeeper, Mrs. Wiggs.  The creepy, sneaky character of Mrs. Wiggs really creeped me out, it felt like she had eyes and ears everywhere watching Susannah's every move.

Thomas soon loses interest in Susannah and often doesn't come home at night, leaving Susannah bemused and lonely.  When a murderer starts terrorising Whitechapel, Susannah becomes obsessed with reading as much as she can about it in the press but she soon notices that each murder coincides with Thomas's disappearances.  To add authenticity to the story, Clare Whitfield has included a small piece on each victim and even recreated newspaper excerpts - I absolutely loved this touch, especially the use of the term 'outraged corpse' which brought very vivid (and slightly amusing, if I'm honest) images to mind.  I presume Clare has written the excerpts, although they are so authentic they may very well be real.

Clare Whitfield has very ingeniously turned the Jack the Ripper story on its head and created an astounding piece of cross-genre fiction; it's certainly historical fiction but it's also mystery, thriller, crime and contemporary fiction, thereby appealing to a wide range of readers.  Clare's accomplished writing weaves a rich tapestry that recreates all of the sounds, smells and sights of Victorian London; a London whose streets may be the dark and dangerous hunting ground of a murderer yet remain filled with revelry and debauchery.

Chilling, compelling and intensely atmospheric, People of Abandoned Character is an absolute masterpiece; there are many strands to this wonderful story and I loved every single one of them.  Clare Whitfield's exceptional debut definitely scoops all the stars; an unreserved 5 star read and very highly recommended.

About the author:

Clare Whitfield is a UK-based writer living in a suburb where the main cultural landmark is a home store/Starbucks combo. Clare nurtures an obsession with female characters that are as much villain as hero, and enjoys lurking in the blurry landscape between perception and reality. She is the wife of a tattoo artist, mother of a small benign dictator and relies on her dog for emotional stability. Previously Clare has been a dancer, copywriter, amateur fire breather, buyer and a mediocre weightlifter. People of Abandoned Character is her first novel. 

Follow Clare on Twitter @whitfield_riley and Instagram @clarerileywhitfield.

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