People of Abandoned Character

by Clare Whitfield

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LoveReading Expert Review of People of Abandoned Character

A powerfully descriptive and compelling historical crime novel set in the viciously bloody times of Jack the Ripper.

Set within the viciously violent reign of Jack the Ripper this is a historical crime novel with real attitude. When Susannah reads newspaper reports detailing a number of ferocious murders, she fears her new husband may be involved as he has been disappearing at night and returning bloodied and secretive. Goodness what a premise this is! While blood-soaked and brutally descriptive, it feels convincing and authentic rather than glorified and salacious. Clare Whitfield doesn’t hold back, but I felt she looked beyond the obvious violence with thoughtful consideration. Not only does she explore the Jack the Ripper case with this novel, she also highlights violence against women, abject poverty, and prejudice. Through the novel we are shown a glimpse of other lives, a connection begins to form before deliberately slicing away again to the main story. This is one of those books where there is no perfect shining light of a character to attach yourself to, life is a struggle, at times a battle, just to survive. Compelling, thought-provoking, and powerful, People of Abandoned Character has been chosen as a LoveReading Debut of the Month.

Liz Robinson

People of Abandoned Character Synopsis

What if you thought your husband was Jack the Ripper?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 he stays out late, another victim is found dead. Is it coincidence? Or is her husband the man the papers call Jack the Ripper? Reviews for People of Abandoned Character: 'A mistreated wife suspects her husband might be the Whitechapel killer... Compelling' Sunday Times 'An astonishing book' M.W. Craven 'A gripping and original take on the world's most notorious serial killer. A perfectly thrilling read for those long winter nights' Adam Hamdy 'This impressive debut builds up pace, pathos and intrigue superbly, with plenty of twists and turns' Woman's Weekly

About This Edition

ISBN: 9781838932756
Publication date: 29th April 2021
Author: Clare Whitfield
Publisher: Apollo an imprint of Head of Zeus
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 432 pages
Primary Genre Crime and Mystery
Other Genres:
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People of Abandoned Character Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough - as a thriller, superb historical fiction or for anyone who loves Ripperology, it’s a five star read from me and a book that will definitely be staying on my bookshelves.

Clare Whitfield’s, “People of Abandoned Character” was one of the easiest five stars I’ve ever awarded to a book. Victorian London, a unique take on Jack the Ripper and an atmospheric location with descriptions the best I’ve read, I could have kept reading this for days, with every single page keeping me entertained.

“Susannah, a nurse at The London hospital, rushes into marriage with a young and wealthy surgeon Thomas Lancaster. After a passionate honeymoon, they return home to Chelsea but everything changes within their marriage. Thomas's behavior becomes increasingly volatile and violent. He stays out all night, returning home bloodied and full of secrets. The gentle and carefree man she married is just a distant memory. When the first woman is murdered in Whitechapel, Susannah's interest is piqued. 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 could her husband be the man they call Jack the Ripper?”

Anything to do with the infamous Ripper instantly piques my interest. Even to this day, everyone has their own opinions on who he actually was and the author has invented a fantastic take on the deaths, with an ending that was truly remarkable and realistic. When the murders were taking place back in the 1880’s, well to do ladies were fascinated in the deaths and used to visit the areas where the deaths occurred, often with women acting out the last moments of the victims. That fascination hasn’t ceased, nigh on one hundred and fifty years later, with it being one of the most talked about period in history for a serial killer in England - people can’t help having their own opinion. The fact that it was unsolved adds to the theories of who the Whitechapel Murderer actually was and I felt this story was not beyond the realms of possibility.
The author has certainly done her research on the time and conditions of London 1888. The cultural influx of the Jews and Russians, the squalor of the living conditions, the workhouses, the poverty, the sights, sounds and smells, all were so life like and convincing, I felt I was there with Susannah in every step she took through the London streets.

Susannah herself has her own backstory. With a smouldering hint at something occurring between her and another nurse she worked with before marrying Thomas, this created an intense curiosity as to what could have happened. This, together with her childhood, living with a grief stricken and strict grandmother, made an absorbing and intensely entertaining read that wasn’t just all about the brutal and vicious murders of the time.

Clare Whitfield, a debut author (who writes like a professional long time writer) doesn’t hold back on any of the harrowing descriptions of the murders, the ladies of a certain class and the nefarious affairs of certain men who visited notorious dens of immorality.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough - as a thriller, superb historical fiction or for anyone who loves Ripperology, it’s a five star read from me and a book that will definitely be staying on my bookshelves.

Miriam Smith

A page- turner set in Whitechapel, London in the late 19th century. Susannah's doctor husband has changed since they returned from their honeymoon; could he be involved in something sinister?

People of Abandoned Character by Clare Whitfield is a real page-turner! Its tone is grim, but the twists and turns of the plot make it a compulsive read.

Susannah Chapman leaves her home in Reading to become a nurse in the London Hospital in Whitechapel. Whitechapel in the late 19th century was a dire place: slums, prostitutes, disease and utter poverty….and before long, a place identified with a notorious serial killer, Jack the Ripper.

At the hospital, Susannah meets young Doctor Lancaster. He seems to be the answer to her dreams, able to offer love, security and a home away from the hardships and danger of Whitechapel. After a whirlwind romance, they marry, and all seems to be well.

However, it is not long before Susannah becomes aware that her husband is not all he seems. She also must contend with a domineering housekeeper, Mrs Wiggs, who has a close relationship with Dr. Lancaster.

The plot unfolds in a way which leads you on, deeper into the depraved lives of “people of abandoned character”. The characters themselves lack some depth, in my opinion, but the plot is strong enough to carry them. The descriptions of life in Whitechapel are vivid and I think the historical background to the novel has been well researched.

All in all, an engrossing novel.

Angela Thomas

This well-researched, wonderfully titled first-person narrative opens in Reading in 1885 and closes in Chelsea in 1890, though the plot centres around the murders of women in Whitechapel during 1888.

According to The Bookseller, 570-odd books will hit shelves on one day in September, up a quarter on the amount released at the start of the same month in (pre-pandemic) 2019. People of Abandoned Character, the lead crime debut of the year for Head of Zeus, may not be part of this flood yet will it sink or swim come October? In a word: swim. Below is an outline of the story and reasons why.

This well-researched, wonderfully titled first-person narrative opens in Reading in 1885 and closes in Chelsea in 1890, though the plot centres around the murders of women in Whitechapel during 1888. While it does tread the same tried and tested ground of “Ripper” territory as countless novels before it, it’s not tired given Clare Whitfield injects fresh impetus with a multidimensional female featuring as protagonist.

Susannah, a former nurse at the London Hospital, thinks she’s found happiness when marrying wealthy surgeon Thomas Lancaster. But the honeymoon period ends as soon as the honeymoon’s over, with the latter becoming volatile after arriving home in bloodied states, much to the concern of the former, a keen reader of newspaper reports pertaining to devilish mutilations.

Despite suspecting her errant husband of being “Jack”, Susannah doesn’t turn into super-sleuth; rather, curiosity leads to visits of the East End whereupon Whitfield displays an admirable sense of place for a debut author. More slow-burner than page-turner like Brandy Purdy’s The Ripper’s Wife, the satisfying denouement should generate interest in the second installment.  

Lee Ruddin

Set in London, a different take on Jack the Ripper. Newly married Susannah begins to suspect her charming surgeon husband of being the serial killer on account of his unpredictable behaviour. A dark and atmospheric story.

Susannah, Nurse Chapman, hastily marries a charming and dashing surgeon. Everything is fine for a little while, then it all changes. She can do nothing right, everything she does is twisted against her. The husband, Thomas, becomes increasingly violent and unpredictable, staying out all night, coming home with blood on his clothes for starters.

Stuck in a house in Chelsea, Susannah is bored and becomes gripped by the Whitechapel Murders, allegedly committed by Jack the Ripper. She even begins to suspect Thomas of being the serial killer.

Matters at home are not helped by the intimidating Mrs Wiggs. She has Thomas wrapped around her little finger, so it seems.

Atmospheric and dark, set in Victorian London, in the days of gaslights and no sewers! Some great details of old London when the rich were rich and the poor very poor.

I thought it took a while to get going, but once it did, I wanted to know more. Who exactly is Thomas? What was going on behind the scenes in the powerhouses of London? Incidentally, London is equally a character in the book, along with the human characters. Susannah’s character is strong, she makes you want to be on her side, taking on both Thomas and Mrs Wiggs.

I did enjoy the book, a different take on Jack the Ripper.

Helen Lowry

Wonderfully compelling, this is a powerful and provocative crime thriller that adds to the legend of Jack the Ripper.

What a fantastic read! This hugely atmospheric page turner is the story of a disaffected wife who thinks that her husband may be the notorious Ripper terrorising London. What starts as an idyllic marriage and an escape from poverty and oppression soon turns into a nightmare as former nurse Susannah witnesses her doctor husband’s increasingly erratic behaviour. 

This is such a thrilling and page-turning read and I would have happily piled through it in a day if I had had the time. The characters are flawed and complex and the sinister and devoted housekeeper Mrs Wiggs definitely had a touch of the Mrs Danvers about her! It’s bloody and brutal in places but that only adds to the sinister atmosphere and the book makes a compelling study of a woman’s subjugation and lowly place in society at the time.

An incredible read - I couldn't recommend this highly enough.

Clare Wilkins

This book is a brilliant dark historical psychological thriller. It fully immerses you in the World of Jack the Ripper and a macabre Victorian London. A five star read.

What a great gritty atmospheric historical fiction novel. This book is very dark, and full of perfect observations about Victorian, and modern society too! This book is definitely not a romantic romp through history in fact it is quite macabre. This is a very dark and disturbing novel but all the more real and dramatic for it. This story fully immerses you in the notorious World of Jack the Ripper and the Victorian underworld of Whitechapel. This is definitely a five star psychological historical thriller.

Lynne Packer

Has Susannah Chapman landed on her feet and made herself safe by her marriage to the dashing young surgeon Thomas Lancaster, or has she just married Jack the Ripper? A deftly woven tale of survival and betrayal in Whitechapel 1888.

In 1888 Susannah Chapman, nurse in a London hospital marries Thomas Lancaster, a younger, rich surgeon. Thinking she has finally escaped her lowly past, one that only she knows about, Susannah moves into his Chelsea home. Before long his behaviour changes, becoming violent and erratic. Soon he is spending nights away from home, or locked in his attic, where only the housekeeper, Mrs Wiggs is allowed.

Then, the Whitechapel murders start. Homeless women brutally butchered, the method pointing towards someone with a knowledge of surgery. Each of these murders coincides with a night when Thomas was absent. More and more pieces start to slide into place, and Susannah, becomes obsessed with the stories of the women and the murders. 

This is an excellent debut by Clare Whitfield. By flipping between the present and the past - she builds up the tension, and lets it out again, builds it up and lets it out. She pulls together the pieces of Susannah’s past and present; the death of her mother, her grandmother, her friend Aisling and the Whitechapel murders. All the time, it is the women who are at the centre of the story; Thomas is just a side player, it is Susannah and Mrs Wiggs, and the forgotten murder victims, who are the important characters in this story.

All together a well crafted tale with an ending that doesn’t disappoint.

Clare Topping

I would really recommend this book, it’s an easy read, a page turner and I look forward to Clare Whitfield’s second novel.

I really enjoyed it and I wished I hadn't read it so quickly!

I thought Susannah was a really good complex character who I totally bought into, I wasn’t so convinced by her 'fabulous' husband Thomas but I guess a woman of a certain class in those times would have jumped at the chance to marry into money.

Despite her dependency on her husband, I did like how independent she was and how she refused to conform to being the good little wife. She researched and visited all the crime scenes of the women who were brutally murdered by ‘Jack the Ripper’.

I would really recommend this book, it’s an easy read, a page turner and I look forward to Clare Whitfield’s second novel.

Charlie Pritchard-Williams

Pacy, exciting and inventive.

I really enjoyed this one. Interesting characters, a pacy plot, great descriptions and place setting - it was all very easy to imagine yourself there and to feel part of the action. There's a risk with this sort of book of it becoming a bit too hammy, but this managed to keep things believable and on the right side of melodramatic. It had definite shades of Du Maurier (especially the housekeeper). A few nice twists and turns to keep you guessing and a satisfactory ending - an interesting alternative take on Jack the Ripper. What more could you want really?


Clare Whitfield Press Reviews

'An astonishing book set in a Victorian London plagued by Jack the Ripper. Whitfield's narrator is Susannah, an ex-nurse who rushed into a rapidly souring marriage with a wealthy surgeon and starts to believe that her husband might be Leather Apron himself. I'd be amazed if it isn't dominating the shortlists come next year's awards season' M.W. Craven.

Other editions of this book

ISBN: 9781838932756
Publication date: 29/04/2021
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9781838932732
Publication date: 01/10/2020
Format: Hardback

Publication date: 01/10/2020
Format: Audiobook

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About Clare Whitfield

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 weight lifter. This is her first novel.

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