Novelist, biographer and poet Peter Ackroyd was born in London in 1949. From a working-class family in west London, he got a scholarship to Cambridge and went on to Yale. He was literary editor of the Spectator and then chief book reviewer for the Sunday Times for many years. He has written over a dozen novels as well as acclaimed biographies of Eliot and Dickens, and a history of London.
Eighteenth- and 20th-century London merge as Nicholas Hawksmoor, C.I.D., investigates a series of murders whose only connection is locale18th-century churches constructed by Nicholas Dyer. Resisting modern, more systematic methods of detection, Hawksmoor interprets the historic connection between these places, old murders and new, slayers and slain, murderers and pursuers, defying time, religion, and reason itself. Despite exacting re-creation of Dyer's London and careful mirroring of 18th-century people and places in the 20th century, the novel lacks a focus that would make a point behind the wealth of detail. As it is, tantalizing symmetries, provocative discussions of architecture, debates on ancient and modern lead nowhere and frustrate the reader. Cynthia Johnson Whealler, Cary Memorial Lib., Lexington, Mass.
Chillingly brilliant . . . sinister and stunningly well executed * Independent on Sunday * Extraordinary, amazing, vivid, convincing. [Ackroyd's] view of life questions the role not just of the novel but of art and history, memory, time and much else * Financial Times * A novel remarkable for [its] power, ingenuity and subtlety * London Review of Books *