Ackroyd presents us with a compelling story and anyone who can seamlessly weave an intellectual discussion of both Satanism and architecture into the same book is worthy of praise. And, I read that his use of old English is considered accurate, too (although I found it got in the way of the narrative).
He makes Hawksmoor the modern detective and gives the role of the architect and disciple of Sir Christopher Wren to a fictional Nicholas Dyer. Other names from the early eighteenth century, in the aftermath of the Plague, appear and reappear, usually before they meet an untimely end.
So, we have a well-researched and well-written novel, drawing deftly on the supposed importance of the locations of the churches (rather like the Jack the Ripper murder scenes making an ‘M’).
But I didn’t enjoy it. There was something unpleasant about this book. I felt the same way about Chatterton. I have enjoyed Ackroyd’s biographies but I find his fiction unsettling, as though he goes out of his way to include the coarsest and most inappropriate details.