‘It doesn’t matter,’ he whispered gently in her ear.

‘What doesn’t matter?’

‘What we were just talking about.’

‘How do you know that it doesn’t matter?’ But her expression was not accusatory.

Pyke kissed her gently on the forehead because he could not think of an appropriate answer.

A while later, she said, ‘Do you think something good can come from something terrible?’

‘The idea that virtue begets virtue is the least truthful of all the untruthful Christian doctrines.’ But he didn’t want to know what Emily thought to be terrible.

‘So do you think that we might be . . . happy?’

He pulled away from her slightly, only to be able to see her expression; eyes that were warm and moist.

‘Might be happy?’

‘All right. Do you think we will be happy?’

‘Do you?’

‘Of course,’ she said, laughing nervously. In the darkness, her skin was smoother than alabaster. ‘What about you?’ She bit her lip and tilted her head slightly to one side.

Briefly Pyke thought about the baby, strangled and discarded in a metal pail for no other reason than it had been crying. Shivering, he pulled Emily towards him, felt her warmth envelop him, and even before he had opened his mouth, he knew he was going to lie.


Thanks to Paul Cobley, Roger Cottrell, David Dwan, Adrian Street, Caroline Sumpter and Dave Torrens for either reading the manuscript and offering invaluable feedback or helping me to think more clearly about the subjects informing the novel in general. Thanks also to my agent, Luigi Bonomi, who persevered with me from start to finish and offered judicious advice and encouragement throughout and to Helen Garnons-Williams whose editorial insights and suggestions for revision significantly improved the finished manuscript. Above all, thanks to Debbie Lisle for sticking with me on this, offering unflagging enthusiasm and love, reading endless drafts and always providing incisive, supportive advice. This novel is dedicated to her.

While not making any great claims to historical accuracy, I have at least tried to evoke something of this fascinating historical period and, to this end, I am greatly indebted to the following and, by no means exhaustive, list of references: Peter Ackroyd, London; J. C. Becket et al., Belfast ; Douglas Gordon Brown, The Rise of Scotland Yard; Patricia Craig, ed., The Belfast Anthology; Norman Gash, Mr Secretary Peel; Arthur Griffiths, The Chronicles of Newgate; Kevin Haddick-Flynn, A Short History of Orangeism; Eric Hollingsworth, The Newgate Novel; Fergus Linanne, London’s Underworld; Donald Low, The Regency Underworld; Henry Mayhew, London’s Underworld; John Marriot, ed., Unknown London; Edward Pearce, Reform!; Elaine Reynolds,

Before the Bobbies; Donald Thomas, The Victorian Underworld; E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class; George Theodore Wilkinson, ed., The Newgate Calendar; Sarah Wise, The Italian Boy. It goes without saying that the mistakes, and I am sure there are many of them, are all mine.

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