The Limehouse Golem begins with convicted poisoner Elizabeth Cree set to hang in Camberwell Prison for the murder of her husband, John Cree. We then go back through time to read the story of how she arrived at this unfortunate point at just 31 years old.
The famously foggy streets of late Victorian London are the backdrop for this macabre tale, and with the titular serial killer, the Jack the Ripper style ‘Limehouse Golem’ on the loose, the killings are getting stranger and more gruesome, bodies are stacking up, famous characters from history are being called in for questioning and the community is terrified.
The tales are drawn together through snippets from Elizabeth’s trial and the inauspicious start she had in life, to treading the boards in the music halls she loved so dearly and the strange little family she made for herself there. We also read excerpts from the Limehouse Golem’s diary entries, which leave little, if anything to the imagination.
I’m a big fan of Victorian thrillers, and although I found it a little hard to get into at first, in this novel, Peter Ackroyd has captured the dirty, unfeeling, uncaring poverty-ridden streets of Victorian London perfectly – you can almost smell the stench and feel the grime under your nails. The grotesque nature of the music halls, the little value placed on human life and the futility of trying to survive in a place that seems to be out to get you really comes through.
This has recently been made into a film and if it is true to the book, should be a blockbuster. If you like your Victorian crime gritty, evocative and with a twist, then this is a book for you.
Disclaimer: I was given a free copy from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review.