ARC Review: PEOPLE OF ABANDONED CHARACTER by Clare Whitfield

I received an ARC of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.

Title in white on navy with gold bottle, ring and flower
Genre: Historical
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: Standalone
CW: domestic abuse, sexual violence, gore, suicide ideation

Review:

Book cover for PEOPLE OF ABANDONED CHARACTER: title in white on navy with gold items hanging from white thread

Marry in haste . . . Murder at leisure?

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.

Thomas’s behaviour becomes increasingly volatile and violent. He stays out all night, returning home bloodied and full of secrets. The gentle caresses she enjoyed on her wedding night are now just a honeyed memory.

When the first woman is murdered in Whitechapel, Susannah’s interest is piqued. But as she follows the reports of the ongoing hunt for the killer, her mind takes her down the darkest path imaginable. Every time Thomas stays out late, another victim is found dead.

Is it coincidence? Or is her husband the man they call Jack the Ripper?

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here


Review:

Continuing with the theme of me reading more historicals this year, I requested this ARC ahead of the UK paperback publication.

This is not a happy read. You can probably guess that from the subject matter, but it’s not an uplifting book. It’s a thriller and an examination of a poisoned marriage – and thus has quite a lot of content warnings.

I did appreciate that the book didn’t try and make Susannah an unreliable narrator, or have her suddenly double-guessing herself/wondering if what she’d seen was all in her head. Her husband and the housekeeper certainly try and make it out that way (more for the public than actually making her perceive it) but Susannah never believes it. I think it might have felt a bit too clich√© if that had happened, as it’s almost the expected thing. Without that element, the tension can build over how far Thomas will go (and if it actually was him.)

The book is largely told from Susannah’s perspective as she reads about the murders and suffocates in her new home and marriage. Interspersed with this personal unravelling are chapters from the perspectives of some of the victims on their final nights that stop just before or just as they are grabbed. It helped give other perspectives on their lives and situations, making them more than sensational murders. Plus it helped bring Whitechapel to life more. These, however, are not the goriest chapters – in fact, they’re pretty ungory. Instead, it is the ending that is pretty gory, and the events around Susannah’s escape.

The book also contains flashbacks/recollections of her earlier life. It did take a bit of getting used to, and that its purpose might not to be obvious. But once I got my head around the whole book being a bit more of a lit fic style that I am used to (in terms of structure), it was a lot easier to understand.

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