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?
Another Goldsboro Books Premier gem, People of Abandoned Character is a debut work of historical fiction told in the first person narrative of Susannah Chapman, newly married to Thomas and quickly discovering marriage is not all she had hoped for. Having escaped poverty and trained to be a nurse, her status rises further when she marries the young and handsome surgeon who she met at the London Hospital in Whitechapel. A honeymoon in Brighton and the move to the house in Chelsea signals the end of the honeymoon and things quickly take a turn for the worst.
To say I liked this work of fiction would be an understatement. Like many I find the macabre Whitchapel murders fascinating and earlier this year read The Five by Hallie Rubenhold, (review here) which provided a useful context to this story and life in Whitechapel at that time. The perspective of the wife of the notorious Jack the Ripper is such an original perspective and the story is so well told. From the bliss of early marriage to a deterioration into violence and abuse. The marginalised position of women leaves Susannah powerless, knowing that her gender and class would both work against her should she choose to raise any concerns. A loyal and vigilant housekeeper, Mrs Wiggs acts as Dr Thomas Lawrence’s protector and Susannah finds herself isolated within a house she should be head of.
A very strong story adds weight to this original premise, with Susannah, portrayed as ‘hysterical, paranoid and unstable’, doubt is cast on her account. The supporting cast are all best described as murky and hold plenty of secrets between them, there is lots going on in this book but it is well written, with a plot that is easy to follow. I read this book in a couple of days, at over 400 pages this for me is quick and a measure of how difficult it was to put down. A fantastic read for fans of historical fiction and a good murder mystery, gruesome in parts as would be expected with this theme but definitely a standout debut of 2020!
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. She is the wife of a tattoo artist, mother of a small benign dictator and relies on a black Labrador for emotional stability. She has been a dancer, copywriter, amateur fire breather, buyer and mediocre weightlifter. This is her first novel.