Thursday, June 7, 2018

"The Angel Makers"

The Angel Makers, the second novel in Tessa Harris’s Constance Piper Mystery series, is based on the true crimes of the Victorian baby farmer, Amelia Dyer, who was practising her deadly trade at the same time as Jack the Ripper was prowling the streets of London.

Harris applied the Page 69 Test to The Angel Makers and reported the following:
From page 69:
I look up at the sky. It’s gray, as usual, but it’s not cold enough for snow. I wish it would, snow that is. At least everything would look cleaner for a few minutes before the brilliant white of a heavy fall is covered in soot and grime again. Everything gets soiled in the end in Whitechapel, that’s just how it is.

Up ahead of us are the stalls where they found the baby the other day. The smell of roasting chestnuts covers the usual stench of horse dung, but I can taste fear on my tongue. My eyes swerve from left to right, scanning for sight of the woman who pointed the finger at me. lt don’t feel right walking along the rows of stalls, like everyone’ll be watching me, judging me. Instead, as we pass a haberdasher’s shop, I call to Flo.

“I’ll buy my ribbon here,” I say, pointing to the window decked out in red and green. There’s a sleigh in the center and it’s loaded with presents, all wrapped up in bright paper.

“What’s wrong with the market?” Flo protests, but the look I give her reminds her of what happened. She nods and agrees to wait outside as I pluck up the courage to go in. I’m not that used to shops, you see, especially not ones that sell fancy goods such as this.
Eagle-eyed readers will recognise the setting of this novel. Whitechapel is, of course, the district of East End London made infamous in 1888 by Jack the Ripper and it is here that Constance Piper ekes out her meagre living as a flower seller. Yet what sets her apart from all the other poverty-stricken souls living in Jack’s shadow is that she believes she has a special ‘gift.’ Constance can communicate with her dead teacher and mentor, Miss Emily Tindall. Together they make a great crime-fighting team, aided and abetted by the young, ambitious and committed Detective Sergeant Thaddeus Hawkins of the Metropolitan Police.

Here we join Constance two days after the discovery of a baby’s body at the market. A stallholder accused her of depositing the tiny corpse and she was arrested briefly. Quickly able to prove her innocence, she still remains wary. Infanticide was a familiar crime in the East End. Options were very limited for unmarried mothers. To avoid stigma, many entrusted their infants to “baby farmers”—women who agreed to care for the baby, or find an adoptive family, in exchange for a fee.

When one of Constance’s friends is murdered, she discovers her dead infant daughter was farmed out to a woman called Mother Delaney. I based this character and her evil exploits on the real-life case of Amelia Dyer – now believed to be one of the most prolific serial killers in history. Her tiny victims were all strangled. The Angel Makers interweaves her story with imagined events set against the dark underbelly of London society in the late nineteenth century. A young governess, made pregnant by her employer’s son, enlists Constance’s help to discover what has happened to her baby. With the aid of Miss Tindall and Detective Hawkins, Constance sets off to track down Mother Delaney and bring her and her murderous associates to justice.
Visit Tessa Harris's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Sixth Victim.

--Marshal Zeringue