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The Fatal Tree

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Audiobook Downloadable / ISBN-13: 9781473646544

Price: £19.99

ON SALE: 23rd February 2017

Genre: Fiction & Related Items / Historical Fiction

London, the 1720s. Welcome to ‘Romeville’, the underworld of that great city. The financial crash caused by the South Sea Bubble sees the rise of Jonathan Wild, self-styled ‘Thief-taker General’ who purports to keep the peace while brutally controlling organised crime. Only two people truly defy him: Jack Sheppard, apprentice turned house-breaker, and his lover, the notorious whore and pickpocket Edgworth Bess.

From the condemned cell at Newgate, Bess gives her account of how she and Jack formed the most famous criminal partnership of their age: a tale of lost innocence and harsh survival, passion and danger, bold exploits and spectacular gaol-breaks – and of the price they paid for rousing the mob of Romeville against its corrupt master.

Bess dictates her narrative to Billy Archer, a Grub Street hack and aspiring poet who has rubbed shoulders with Defoe and Swift. But he also inhabits that other underworld of ‘molly-houses’ and ‘unnameable sin’, and has his own story of subterfuge, treachery and doomed romance to deliver. As the gallows casts its grim shadow, who will live to escape the Fatal Tree?

By the acclaimed author of THE LONG FIRM, this is a tour de force; inventive, atmospheric and rich in the street slang of the era. Drawing on real figures and a true history of crime, punishment and rough justice, it tells a heartbreaking story of love and betrayal.

(P)2017 Hodder & Stoughton

Reviews

A work of dazzling imagination and linguistic inventiveness
Alex Preston, Observer
A rambunctious narrative of venery, theft, death and a devil-may-care braggadocio, its doomed love story undercuts and counterpoints the swagger with a touching melancholy.
Elizabeth Buchan, Daily Mail
Jake Arnott, who is probably best known for excellent novels such as The Long Firm about London gangsters in the 1960s, has done much more than update the work of his 18th-century predecessors. Unlike them, he shows the citizens of Romeville as people, not as folk heroes or bogeymen . . . Arnott explores what poor Bess calls 'the felony of love', a crime that is not on the statute book. The result is powerful, poignant and readable.
Andrew Taylor, Spectator
Jack's awkward courtship of Bess is a highlight of the book - Arnott's best so far - and genuinely moving . . . an astonishingly vivid act of ventriloquy that breathes life into infamous corpses
Mark Sanderson, Evening Standard
The narrative is woven through with vividly portrayed characters, from Bess and Jack themselves to the superbly realised, wonderfully named Punk Alice and Poll Maggot, the transvestite Princess Seraphina; and the mixed-race heavy, Blueskin. Arnott delights too in the secret language of thieves
Wyl Menmuir, Observer
Bawdy and rich with vivid evocations of the past . . . The Fatal Tree is Arnott on beguiling form, with the libidinous Bess a wonderfully multifaceted character. Who would have thought that a cult crime writer would become the Daniel Defoe of our day?
Barry Forshaw, i News
A seductive, cunning tale of crime, punishment and love among the thieves, prostitutes and charlatans of 1720's London. Laced with vibrant detail and deliciously evocative period language, Arnott's atmospheric novel is a Hogarth print come to life . . . With a cast of delightfully convincing characters and lines that are reminiscent of Dickens or Wilde, Arnott has triumphantly breathed life into history - and the result is glorious.
Attitude
A dazzling mix of fact and fiction . . . the Hogarthian tale of a Harlot's Progress
Jackie McGlone, Sunday Herald
[Arnott's] flair for noir - corruption, menace and the psychosexuality of gangsters - transposes well into "Romeville" . . . He gifts his prig-nappers and pot-valiant bawds the kind of one-liners Moll Flanders would have rejoiced in.
Hermione Eyre, Guardian