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Peter Ackroyd: Hawksmoor

Nicholas Hawksmoor has not had the reputation he deserves, not least because he worked in the shadow of two great men – Sir Christopher Wren and Sir John Vanbrugh. Yet his architecture survives at Castle Howard, All Souls, Oxford, Easton Neston and, in particular, in various London churches. (To know more about him read Kerry Downes’ book on him; it is out of print but easy to obtain.) Ackroyd’s take is, of course, somewhat different. Indeed, he attributes some of Hawksmoor’s work to an obscure architect called Nicholas Dyer (we follow the story of Dyer in this book). In this book Nicholas Hawksmoor is not the architect but a modern police detective who is investigating a series of murders committed in the Hawksmoor churches. As in all Ackroyd novels, the past and present intertwine as Hawksmoor past and Hawksmoor present overlap, the dark and gloomy side of London rears its head – murder, black magic and sorcery all occur – and, we know, someone is not going to come out as happy as when he went in.

Publishing history

First published 1985 by Hamish Hamilton