Is it the heart of the empire, or the heart of darkness?
– Peter Ackroyd, quote about London.
One of the books that caught our particular eye in this month’s selection of newly acquired detective and mystery titles was The old rogue of Limehouse by Ann Granger, an atmospheric historical crime novel set in Victorian London in the summer of 1871. One of the many great ingredients that make this book such a compelling read is its location, Limehouse.
Limehouse is an ancient district in London. The name is derived from the local lime kilns that used to be there, with the earliest known reference to the area dating back to 1356. However, it is the Limehouse’s connection with British maritime history that the area is perhaps best known for. One of London’s key ports from hundreds of years, sadly the Limehouse Basin docks closed in the late 1960s. Whilst being a vibrant and diverse community, Limehouse was also known historically for its poverty, deprivation and notorious 19th Century era opium dens. This rich, varied and interesting history of the area has proved a big lure to several writers.
Authors and novels that have taken advantage of the Limehouse area of the London, and the districts close by, to set their works in include:Alan Moore with his The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novel series, Kate Summerscale with her award winning factual book The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer, Peter Ackroyd and his excellent Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem , The Last Sherlock Holmes Story by Michael Dibdin, the now highly problematic Fu Manchu stories by Sax Rohmer and now Ann Granger’s latest book joins this select group of writers.
The old rogue of Limehouse / Granger, Ann
“It is the summer of 1871 when Scotland Yard’s Inspector Ben Ross pays a visit to Jacob Jacobus, the old rogue of Limehouse: infamous antiquarian, friend to villains and informer to the police. Ben hopes to glean information about any burglaries that might take place now that the wealthiest echelons of society are back in London for the Season. Little does he realise that an audacious theft has already occurred – a priceless family heirloom, the Roxby emerald necklace, has been stolen from a dressing table in the Roxby residence, and the widowed Mrs Roxby is demanding its immediate return…” (Adapted from Catalogue)