Shortlisted for the Authors Club Best Debut Novel Award, and for the Historical Writers Association/Goldsboro Crown for Debut Historical Fiction
To give away any hint of the fantastic plot would ruin the book, and that would be a pity. Sue Arnold, The Guardian
Charles Horton has fashioned a simple life for himself in Wapping. He works for the River Police, he goes home to his wife Abigail and her books, and he tries to forget his mutinous past. But when he is the first constable to attend a scene of slaughter on the Ratcliffe Highway, his life changes forever. A husband and wife, their servant and, worst of all, their baby have all been killed. The attack is vicious and, it would seem, without purpose. And since this is 1811, and there is no police force – only venal constables and amateur magistrates – chaos descends. When another family is killed barely a week later, the country erupts into moral panic. Doors are locked as far north as the Lake District.
Only one man avoids panic. Only one man seeks a purpose to these killings. And so this detective who has never heard the word detective starts to uncover a trail of conspiracy stretching back three centuries. Then, another man sailed on England’s first slaving voyage to capture innocents on the west coast of Africa and sell them on the Spanish Main.
Centuries later, Charles Horton uncovers evidence that someone is planning a new slaving voyage, three years after England abolished the trade. He discovers the final secret among the vessels in Sheerness harbour. At night, these ships are everything that made Britain great. At night, you cannot see what made Britain terrible.