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The Fatal Tree

by Jake Arnott

eBooks of the Month Historical Fiction Modern and Classic Literary Fiction Thriller and Suspense

LoveReading View on The Fatal Tree

Powerful and expressive, this is an extraordinary tale, based in reality, set in the London underworld of the 1720’s. Edgeworth Bess is in Newgate, as she tells her story via a third party, more than one person’s life is revealed in all its sordid, beautiful wonder. Jake Arnott has the ability to create a living, punchy, violent world, it feels real, it feels as though the events are taking place now. The language of the time is startling, at first I delved into the glossary at the back, in a very short time though, I didn't need to refer to it, I lived, breathed and felt the words. There are a number of real people at large here, their stories are, to be honest, quite gobsmacking, yet in this fictional setting, with this gloriously assured writing, they felt even more substantial and undeniably physical. ‘The Fatal Tree’ is a vibrantly striking tale, it is, quite simply, a cracking read and I highly recommend it. ~ Liz Robinson

Click here to read a Q&A with Jake Arnott.

Liz Robinson

The Fatal Tree Synopsis

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.

The Fatal Tree Press Reviews

[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

A dazzling mix of fact and fiction . . . the Hogarthian tale of a Harlot's Progress -- Jackie McGlone  Sunday Herald

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 

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

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

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

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

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 

A work of dazzling imagination and linguistic inventiveness -- Alex Preston  Observer

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9781473637764
Publication date: 07/09/2017
Publisher: Sceptre an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton General Division
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9781473637740
Publication date: 23/02/2017
Publisher: Sceptre an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton General Division
Format: Hardback

Book Information

ISBN: 9781473637764
Publication date: 7th September 2017
Author: Jake Arnott
Publisher: Sceptre an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton General Division
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 352 pages
Genres: eBook Favourites, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Thriller / Suspense,
Categories: Historical fiction,

About Jake Arnott

Jake Arnott was born in 1961, and lives in London. He is the author of the THE LONG FIRM, published by Sceptre in 1999 and subsequently made into an acclaimed BBC TV series. His second novel, HE KILLS COPPERS, was also made into a series by Channel 4. He has since published the novels TRUECRIME, JOHNNY COME HOME, THE DEVIL'S PAINTBRUSH and THE HOUSE OF RUMOUR. Click here to read a Q&A with Jake Arnott. Photograph © Christian Barnett

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