Saturday 30 November 2013

Review - Ace, King, Knave by Maria McCann

Faber and Faber
November 2013

Eighteenth century London is vividly recreated in this charismatic story about the fortunes, and multiple misfortunes, of a trio of disparate people. There is the newly-wed Sophie who is married to the charismatic Mr Zedland, who keeps her own secrets well hidden. A former bawdy prostitute, Betsy- Anne Blore who runs her second hand goods shop with an enviable entrepreneurial skill, and also Fortune, who is the Zedland’s mismanaged slave.

On the surface, the lives of these three people should never intertwine, but Maria McCann has, with great panache, weaved together  a story which will gradually reveal the heaving hotchpotch of the great, and it must be said, the mightily unwashed of 1760s London. From the gin-soaked alleys, which are reminiscent of a Hogarth engraving, through to the genteel drawing rooms of the English upper class, no stone is left unturned, and as these proverbial stones are uncovered, a shocking story of vile corruption, and filth at the highest level, is revealed.

Ultimately, this is a good romp through Hanoverian England, and as always the author manipulates the narrative with considerable ease, blending authenticity with dramatic storytelling. Littered throughout is a colourful vocabulary which infuses such a tangible realism, that I felt like I had spent time wandering London, with a set of wastrels, vagabonds, prostitutes and grave-robbers.

If you like colourful and realistic historical fiction then I am sure that this story will appeal enough to warrant giving it a try.

Thanks to Netgalley and Faber and Faber for my review copy of this book


  1. This sounds very intriguing! I love stories that have a thread of historical context, with a running social commentary pervading through the narrative.

    Brilliantly summarised, I'll definitely be taking a look at this!

    Nell at And Nell Writes

    1. Hi Nell - Welcome to my blog and thank you for your kind comments.

      What I enjoy about Maria McCann is that everyone of her books is different.


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