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The Fatal Tree by Jake Arnott
  

The Fatal Tree

Historical Fiction   Thriller / Suspense   Literary Fiction   
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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.

If you like Jake Arnott you might also like to read books by James Ellroy, Christopher Brookmyre and David Peace.

Synopsis

The Fatal Tree by Jake Arnott

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.

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

About the Author

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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Book Info

Publication date

7th September 2017

Author

Jake Arnott

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Author's Website

www.jakearnott.com/

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Publisher

Sceptre an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton General Division

Format

Paperback
352 pages

Categories

Historical Fiction
Thriller / Suspense
Literary Fiction

ISBN

9781473637771