A truly gripping story that is full of historical atmosphere and a devilish plot. Death and the Harlot is a wonderful debut novel from the very talented, new thriller writer, Georgina Clarke. The main character, Lizzie Hardwicke, is unconventional, audacious and clever. Lizzie’s background is mysterious and considering this is London in 1759, she can read, write and speak several languages. What she doesn’t conceal is the fact that she’s working as a prostitute in a brothel run by Ma Farley. This provides Lizzie with a comfortable place to live and an income that can enable her to save for an alternative life when she has amassed enough money. What I appreciated was that she didn’t apologise or hide the fact that she was a prostitute and had the foresight to prepare for her future.
With one client, a Mr George Reed, she recognises that he is wealthy and well worth keeping sweet so she invites him to a private party in their establishment. At the party, Reed causes a ruckus and a group of the regulars and the doorman throw him out. He seems to know about quite a few of them as he shouts insults and threats. Later Reed is found dead and William Davenport heads up the investigation. While Lizzie is one of the last people to see Reed alive and therefore a suspect, I nevertheless felt the motivation for Lizzie to step into the role of an investigator to prove her innocence was tenuous. This was the only issue I had with the whole story and wished there could have been a bit more of a compelling reason for her to get involved. Davenport has an issue with Lizzie being a whore and initially shows her little respect. He has his own story to tell but as the novel progresses he starts to see that there is more substance, compassion and kindness in Lizzie than he ever expected. The relationship between them both is fascinating as it develops. This little description gives us a gentle impression into Lizzie’s social standing and character, as she helps a young girl on the street.
“She had fallen too far for me to find her a respectable trade – any more than I could find one myself – but I could help her out as best I could. There, but for the grace of God, walked I, after all.”
Lizzie was such a wonderfully formed character and Georgina Clarke leveraged her role to provide us glimpses of London in the 1700s – the squalor and living conditions, the attitudes of people, the precarious ways people eked out a living, and the historical highlights of the time. The main historical gems weaved into the story including the highwayman John Swann, who is captured and facing trial in Newgate, while his gang are terrorising London. Secondly, is John Fielding who founded the police force in England and his men were nicknamed the ‘Bow Street Runners’ and monitored this investigation.
What really stood out in this story was how Lizzie, a whore, was central to the investigation, and the many dynamics she brought to a great full-bodied investigative plot. A plot that weaved in engrossing elements of history, great characters, location, dialogue, and full of pace from beginning to end.
Another buddy read with the wonderful Beata – such a pleasure. I can’t recommend this book highly enough and I’d like to thank Canelo and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC version in return for an honest review.
Additional Book Ratings
Cover Design: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Proofreading Success: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Quality of Book Formatting: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Book Format/Status: Kindle/Advanced Reader Copy (ARC)
Number of Pages: 296
Number of Chapters: 51 (approx 6 pages per chapter)