Your Preview Verdict: People of Abandoned Character by Clare Whitfield

Your Preview Verdict: People of Abandoned Character by Clare Whitfield

What would you do if you thought your husband was Jack the Ripper? A dark historical crime novel.

He is my husband. To honour and obey. Until murder do us part. London, 1888: Susannah rushes into marriage to a young and wealthy surgeon. After a passionate honeymoon, she returns home with her new husband wrapped around her little finger. But then everything changes. His behaviour becomes increasingly volatile and violent. He stays out all night, returning home bloodied and full of secrets. Lonely and frustrated, Susannah starts following the gruesome reports of a spate of murders in Whitechapel. But as the killings continue, her mind takes her down the darkest path imaginable. Every time her husband stays out late, another victim is found dead. Is it coincidence? Or is he the man they call Jack the Ripper?

Read some great reviews from our Preview readers here:

People of Abandoned Character is the debut novel of Claire Whitfield. It is a wonderfully crafted dark historical fiction set in London during the Victorian Era. Claire has cleverly blended facts with fiction to explore the unique story of Jack the Ripper. The story focuses on Susannah a 27-year-old nurse who rushes into marriage with a young and wealthy surgeon. However, early into their romance, her husband’s behaviour changes, he becomes violent and volatile. This is the same time as gruesome and violent murders are taking place throughout the poorest parts of London. Is her husband involved? Is he Jack the Ripper? What secrets is he keeping? Many questions come to light and to be answered they take Susannah down a very dark and troubling path. This book is truly gripping, and it keeps you guessing right to the last page. A must-read for anybody. – Amy, NSW, 5 Stars

Clare Whitfield’s book “People of Abandoned Character” is fantastically written, filled with twists and turns you don’t see coming. Highly recommend this book especially if you enjoy periods books with an unpredictable storyline. – Heather, NSW, 5 Stars

I have never had a favourite book until I have read People of Abandoned Character by Clare Whitfield. The story unravelled at just the right pace and I could not put it down, at the same time wishing for the book to never end. The characters – especially the main – kept me engaged throughout and I felt that their stories were well thought through and planned to keep me guessing from the first to the very last page. When I finished, I felt the book gave me everything I wanted and more. This is an awesome read for fans of historical fiction as the research does not disappoint. I am hoping that another book by Clare Whitfield is not too far away, as I am already her biggest fan! – Ewa, VIC, 5 Stars

Clare Whitfield has excelled with this book. I was intrigued from the start and found that the story was expressed well and flowed along nicely. In London in 1888, this book is seen from Susannah’s view, as a nurse who rushes into marriage with a surgeon. She finds herself in a desperate lonely situation and focuses all her attention on the gruesome murders happening at the time. This book includes murder, secrets and deceit. I thoroughly enjoyed it and wish to thank better reading for this copy to read and review. – Renee, QLD, 5 Stars

Clare Whitfield’s ‘People of Abandoned Character’ is her debut novel, and what a way to enter the world of crime fiction. The story is set in Victorian London, 1888 and follows the story of a nurse, Susannah and her marriage to Thomas, the successful and wealthy surgeon. This fast-paced historical crime takes you on a whirlwind of emotions, making the reader constantly put themselves in Susannah’s shoes and ask themselves, ‘What would I do in this situation, how would I react?” Is it a coincidence that every time a victim is found dead, Thomas arrives home with blood-stained clothes, scratches on his face and other curious clues? Or is Susannah really married to Jack the Ripper? Hold on to your seat, and don’t read this one before bed, it’s a real spine. – Emily, VIC, 5 Stars

What a brilliant read! I absolutely loved this book! It was so well written and evoked such emotion! On a number of occasions, I almost threw the book straight across the room out of frustration! What an amazing skill to have, to capture the reader’s emotions so much. It’s such a great debut novel and I will be recommending it to everyone and keeping an eye out for Clare Whitfield in future. – Sherridan, SA, 5 Stars

This book is captivating and not for the faint of heart – it is the most talked-about period in history being that of the unsolved Jack the Ripper murders in England! I can’t recommend this thriller highly enough, for those who enjoy the historical fiction genre also. 5 stars from me, what a page-turner! – Preeya, QLD, 5 Stars

I love a dark, dirty, atmospheric novel, set in Victorian-era England. Throw in the gothic overtones of a woman, negotiating the world alone, at the mercy of a violent man, a scheming servant, the stifling confines of a London enthralled to the violence of Jack the Ripper, and I am hooked. Newlywed Susannah suspects her surgeon husband is Leather Apron, the man who would be known later as Jack the Ripper. His manner to her has changed, he comes home late, covered in blood, he is violent and abusive. Why wouldn’t her thoughts go down dark paths? Why wouldn’t she go and investigate?? People of Abandoned Character was a moody masterpiece. I didn’t want it to end. I give it 5 stars. – Daniella, QLD, 5 Stars

People of Abandoned Character, by Clare Whitfield, is set in the dark and seedy world of London in 1888. Susannah Chapman’s voice resonates from the very first page and grips the reader. Leaving her tragic and somewhat tortured past behind her, Susannah seeks a fresh start in London. Her new career as a nurse allows her the good fortune to meet and marry the charming young doctor Thomas Lancaster. Whitfield subtly increases the tension as Susannah’s seemingly perfect new life takes a dark turn as soon as the young married couple move to Thomas’ house in Chelsea. Susannah, who had been worried about her own past and hidden secrets, is immediately faced with the domineering housekeeper, Mrs Wiggs, and Thomas’ sudden sinister transformation from a devoted lover to a tyrannical husband. Whitfield expertly transports the reader to another time and place, immersing us in the class and societal structures of the time and captivating us with the mystery surrounding the bloody murders of Jack the Ripper. For the reader who loves crime and historical fiction, this needs to be placed on your ‘to-read’ list. – Genene, SA, 5 Stars

This is the best read of 2020! It has something for everyone; romance, murder, intrigue, gaslighting and mystery all written into a rich tapestry during Victorian England. Such a vivid story highlighting the social class and gender issues of the time in a book that I could not put down! – Dianne, SA, 5 Stars

I’ve just read “People of Abandoned Character “ by Clare Whitfield I loved it Susannah is so in love with her new husband, but he seems to have a dark side. She starts an investigation after her husband stays out late and comes back bloodied Mrs Wiggs (her housekeeper) seems to be hiding something I highly recommend this book. – Bridget, VIC, 5 Stars

This book was quite slow to start for me but I began to enjoy it the further into the book I was. I really began to be engaged with Susannah and the trials of her life. However, I found the plot to be just a bit too ‘fanciful’. Overall if you like historical novels this is for you! I found the description of life for the very poor in London in the 1800’s so sad and wonder how anyone survived. An enjoyable and interesting read. – Jenny, VIC, 4 Stars

This book is a real page-turner, with a few surprises thrown in and some unexpected twists and turns to the plot. The main character is Susannah, whose character moves between being a weak, dependent woman to being a strong resilient character. She has friends with strong personalities. Aisling, who is all the things that Susannah would like to be and Mabel, who she is competitive with at first, but they find a common ground of friendship later in the story because Susannah did Mabel a huge favour and helped her out of a bind. The twists and turns start when Susannah marries a handsome doctor from the hospital where she is a nurse. He pursues and weds her with a passion she thought would never be for her. But he changes drastically after the honeymoon is over, and aided by his housekeeper, Mrs Wiggs, Susannah become a virtual slave to her husband’s whims and bad tempers. In her isolation, she starts to keep a diary of the Ripper’s activities and can’t help but wonder why her husbands nights out coincide with a Ripper murder. She must somehow escape and help comes from an unexpected quarter. The plot is really a different take on a period of time and events that still, today, capture peoples interest and imagination. But this is an individuals tale of that time and the twists in the story will make you want to keep on reading to find out how Susannah survives. It’s a bold story and Claire Whitfield tackles it extremely well. – Chris, VIC, 4 Stars

‘We married in St Jude’s, Whitechapel, …’ In 1888, Susannah Chapman, a nurse, married Thomas Lancaster, a wealthy young doctor. Because of her marriage, she loses her position (and independence). And shortly afterwards, she discovers that Thomas is not the man she thought he was. Her affectionate husband becomes moody and volatile and prone to staying out at night. When the first woman is found murdered in Whitechapel, Susannah follows the case with interest. But the more she learns, the more she worries that Thomas might be the killer soon to be known as Jack the Ripper. Is it a coincidence that the murders occur on the nights when Thomas stays out late? Susannah’s concerns threaten to overwhelm her, and she is no longer sure who she can trust. We follow the story through the slums of Victorian Whitechapel, meeting the poor who live there and the well-heeled who visit … for various purposes. Susannah was born poor, and desperately want to keep poverty behind her. But many of the women of Whitechapel have no choice. There are a couple of unexpected twists and If you enjoy historical fiction with a Gothic twist, then I can recommend this. – Jennifer, ACT, 4 Stars

In 1885 Susannah Charlton buries her grandmother and heads to London to start her Nursing Training. What transpires over the next few years will shake her to the core. Whilst in her training she becomes friendly with Aisling who shows her another way of life and kindness. This relationship is bittersweet. A chance meeting at the Hospital of a Doctor Thomas Lancaster who has been slightly injured in a small fire has Susannah in a spin. He appears caring and smitten and very soon they are married. She must leave her role at the hospital. On return from their honeymoon, the relationship changes somewhat but not for the better. The housekeeper in their home is rather overbearing and very protective of Thomas. Various murders are occurring in London at this time and Susannah is concerned that her husband is out late on the corresponding evenings and when he does return he is often bloodied and dishevelled. She consults a Physician but all is not as it seems. The reader will be enthralled and keen to keep reading to find out how this story of intrigue ends. Hold on to your hat. There are many twists and turns with an ending nothing like one would have imagined! – Lisa, SA, 4 Stars

To say I was sceptical at first of a “Jack the Ripper” novel is an understatement. This book kept me turning the pages, and I would keep saying, “Just one more page.” Clare Whitfield paints a picture of 1880s London to make it feel like you are there. She is able to make you feel like you are walking in Susannah’s shoes and see what life was like for a woman in that era. A great read and easily one of the best I have read this year. – Kerrie, NSW, 4 Stars

Set in London in 1888 this dark yet captivating novel is sure to draw you in. It is the debut novel by UK based author, Clare Whitfield, and will hopefully be the first of many. I found this a compelling and entertaining read and Clare’s writing style is clever and has you feeling as if you are living through the ordeal alongside the protagonist, Susannah Chapman. Susannah, a London nurse, hastily marries wealthy surgeon, Thomas Lancaster, after a brief romance. After enjoying a passionate honeymoon, they move into his home in Chelsea when things start to change. Thomas becomes angry and volatile and begins to treat Susannah with cruelty and malice. He disappears at nights and returns home sometimes covered in blood with no adequate explanation. Susannah begins to fear and despise her husband and these feelings are intensified as she realises that his secretive nights out coincide with the nights that brutal murders are occurring nearby. This novel is a gripping and intriguing take on the Jack the Ripper tale, and I recommend it to all who enjoy historical fiction or nail-biting mysteries. – Mary-Jo, VIC, 4 Stars

“People of Abandoned Character” by Clare Whitfield is an intriguing blend of historical and crime fiction. Set amongst the backdrop of 1888 London, the novel explores the new and troubled marriage of Susannah and Thomas while presenting an interesting theory about the Jack the Ripper murders that I had not encountered before. The characters are well-rounded and unique, fitting into the plot and setting perfectly. The novel picked up the pace after some descriptive world-building and backstory explaining in its first 50 pages. I found myself turning the pages of the final 10 chapters rapidly and was reluctant to put it down. Overall, a great debut novel, I will be looking out for Whitfield’s name in bookshops and libraries in the future! Recommended to fans of Jack the Ripper depictions, The Alienist, Rebecca and classic Victorian crime fiction like Sherlock Holmes. Content Warnings: The novel features graphic gory descriptions, murder, domestic violence, non-consensual sex and emotional abuse (gaslighting) as major plot points. – Kirsten, NSW, 4 Stars

I absolutely love the title of this novel – I think ‘People of Abandoned Character’ describes it really well. I couldn’t put the book down as it had me hooked with all the twists and turns. It provides a fascinating glimpse into society at the time of Jack the Ripper and particularly the plight of women in it. I think it really makes a statement when the main character would rather stay with her husband even though she fears he is a monster. There really were very few options for women of that time unless you were born into a wealthy family or got married to someone who was middle class. It describes the absolute squalor people lived in very well and highlights the differences between rich and poor during that time in great detail. It does contain some quite gruesome descriptions which I skipped over but there weren’t too many of them. I really enjoyed this historical fiction, particularly how it kept me guessing and the twists towards the end. Very well written from a first author – I would definitely read more of Clare Whitfield’s future books. – Debra, NSW, 4 Stars

This was a real slow burner of a book which didn’t really ignite but always seemed to be on the verge of it without taking off. Giving a totally different look at the potential happenings of the Jack the Ripper mystery it delved into social dysfunction going on behind the scenes in an upper-middle-class family… Not a book for everyone, but I enjoyed it. – Laticia, SA, 4 Stars

People of Abandon Character was definitely a different genre to my usual reads, I do generally enjoy historical fiction but don’t often read crime/mystery, I was so pleasantly surprised though. I thoroughly enjoy this book, the story had me hooked, with underlying plot points which allowed the reader to piece the character backstories together and really become immersed in the drama. I would say that the descriptions were quite graphic especially in the murder scenes, something to keep in mind for those interested in reading. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for something new, especially those with an interest in historical crime and Jack the Ripper, and I will look out for Whitfield’s future releases. – Rachelle, TAS, 4 Stars

I learnt a lot about life in London in 1888 and the terror that Jack The Ripper struck. The story had lots of twists and turns and was well-paced. There is plenty of violence but it is relevant to the story. Well written and educational too. – Julie, NSW, 4 Stars

This story is not what I expected. We meet Susannah sometime after the events in the book take place. A plain woman with an inquisitive mind she is studying nursing at The London Hospital meets and rather hastily marries an attractive doctor 5 years her junior. From here the plot rambles. Part being told in the first person, then the third person and back again. At first, I thought the plot was following Rebecca (dominating housekeeper, reticent husband, mousy wife), then it changes to blood and gore, the dismembering of victims etc. Some of the main characters are one dimensional and do not elicit any warmth or feeling from the reader. Whilst it is well written, I feel there are still some questions to be answered. I enjoyed the reading the book but, it is not one I would re-read. – Christie, NSW, 4 Stars

In London 1888, Susannah, a nurse, rushes into marriage with a young and wealthy surgeon. Everything seems perfect until her new husband changes for the worse and secrets start to form. When murders start to happen, Susannah gets suspicious of her husband’s absence. Claire Whitfield’s, thrilling and suspenseful gothic debut novel is intriguing and mysterious, evoking many questions: “do you really know the person you have married” and “what is classified as a TOXIC relationship?” Suspicion, trust and secrets combined with history keep you guessing from start to finish making Whitfields’ psychological thriller an interesting must-read for historical mystery and crime fiction fans. – Arrisarne, VIC, 4 Stars

This was quite a ‘dark’ book – the writing perfectly reflecting the growing horror of the London community as the events unfold. Written from the perspective of a young woman, who has had a difficult journey right from the start, we see her make promising steps forward and embark on a whirlwind marriage. She is full of hope and optimism and then things start to slowly unravel. The plot is full of twists and turns as the characters are slowly developed. The reader gets pulled into the mystery and is left puzzling over what is really happening. Many of the tragic characters pull the reader in, leaving you hoping for a positive outcome for them. Others, leave you jeering and booing like an old black and white movie. The tragic snapshots of the victims, interspersed throughout Susannah’s own story, add to the suspense. By the second half of the book, putting it down is an absolute challenge. This is a classic whodunnit with a gothic twist. Enjoy the ride! – Lee, ACT, 4 Stars

What an intriguing story “People of Abandoned Character” is! Dark, curious and littered with dry English humour, this made for a very interesting read indeed. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this book, but once I started I just wanted to keep on reading. I felt the style it was written in to be a little unusual which added to the overall character of this book. Surprises in the plot arose unexpectedly, making this story all the more addicting leaving just enough untold to keep me wondering where the plot was headed. Macabre and arresting, this book is sure to pique the interest of many. – Belinda, VIC, 4 Stars

This one started as a slow burn for me. As a protagonist, Susannah seemed frustratingly self-deprecating. A woman who had survived alone as long as she had in Victorian London, and to become a trained nurse no less, should have, in my mind, had more of a spine. But as her determination, strength and force of character begin to emerge, so too does the storyline explode. A new take on the Jack the Ripper story from a fabulous new debut author, a twist that you simply won’t see coming and one of the most well-resolved endings I have read in a long time. – Angela, VIC, 3 Stars

People of Abandoned Character is a novel set in 1888 in London. The main character is Susannah Chapman, a woman from a poor background who thinks her future is secure and happy by marrying a wealthy surgeon. But her husband has another side to him. and many secrets are slowly unveiled, including whether he is a murderer of women. The language has a lovely flow and rhythm, transporting the reader back in time. The disparity between rich and poor is a common theme, as is the treatment of women by men. Although a little slow in parts, and occasionally gruesome, this novel held my interest throughout. I was intrigued by the mystery of whether Susannah had married Jack the Ripper. I also found her backstory and her desperation to be loved and given the security she craved deeply saddening. Overall, an interesting, well-written book with many layers. – Karlie, SA, 3 Stars

A Victorian London that shows its darkest secrets. This book kept me hooked. What started out with a hopeful story of love and marriage, quickly turns into murder, squalor and plenty of twists. Some of the characters could feel a bit ‘distant’ at times, however, they fit the narrative well. I found the story much more compelling than those living it. Well worth the read, but I warn that this is not a light-hearted story of romance. Claire Whitfield delivers a glimpse into history and intertwined with great story-telling. – Tess, TAS, 3 Stars

I was keen to read this as I’ve always been fascinated with the Whitechapel murders and was interested to experience this very different take on the events. However, I found this book very hard to read, as the main character is horribly abused and, as she narrates the story, you must suffer alongside her. I wanted her to fight back, but she was a victim of her sex and her times as much as her abusers. I did find it a bit slow to get going, but the ending is spot-on. It’s not a book I’d put myself through again, but it’s one I won’t forget. – Em, NSW, 3 Stars

Clare Whitfield has certainly researched Medicine and life in late Victorian East End London to convey the atmosphere and reality of the period. The difficult position for women without family or husband and with limited employment opportunities is clearly shown. The sections where Susannah imagines Jack the Ripper’s victims’ experiences are an interesting aspect of the novel. However, much of the plot becomes increasingly improbable, diminishing the impact of Susannah’s predicament. As the reader learns more about her earlier life and witnesses her recent actions, sympathy for Susannah is further lessened. Although there are intriguing twists to the plot in the later stages of the novel, the explicit descriptions of post-murder activities are off-putting. The surprise ending certainly gives food for thought regarding the medical profession in nineteenth-century England! – Frances, NSW, 2 Stars

Susannah Chapman had the misfortune of growing up in Victorian England; of being regarded as a plain girl; and of jumping into a marriage with a wealthy, charismatic doctor! The latter may not seem so bad unless you thought your new husband may turn out to be Jack the Ripper! That’s the premise in this dark but fascinating debut novel by Clare Whitfield. In fact, it’s hard to believe this is her first book. It’s cleverly written and well researched and adds to the Ripper genre by creating a new possibility for the identity of the man who killed at least five girls, mutilating them badly, in the Whitechapel region of west London. If you enjoy this type of work then this is a must-read. But be warned – People of Abandoned Character is a very apt title for this novel! – Chris, QLD, 2 Stars

People of Abandoned Character certainly has been given great reviews and this has me wondering what I missed.  I kept going even though slow and poorly written with no character connection.  I could not wait to finish this one and although the last part was action-packed it had no impact.  For me it was a sequence of unbelievable “lets get this done” events.  Thank you for the opportunity to read this however I just can not say that I am thankful for the experience and am struggling to see why so many have given this such a high rating. I would like to comment that there appears to have been no structural editing, and someone owed it to Clare as a first time writer to have moulded her story into something worth her efforts. I could go on, however, feel that already my comments although truthful will not be well received. I can not rate this at all and only finished due to my commitment to Better Reading. I am sorry but do feel that there is no point in not being honest and in doing so I do hope that this does not lessen my chances to receive future advanced reading copies as I do very much enjoy receiving and reading outside of my normal choosing. I have read some amazing books over the last few years that I would not otherwise have done. – Debbie, VIC, 1 Stars


Clare Whitfield Discusses her Gripping Debut Novel, People of Abandoned Character

Review | Author Related

1 December 2020

Clare Whitfield Discusses her Gripping Debut Novel, People of Abandoned Character

    Intrigue and Suspense: Read an Extract from People of Abandoned Character by Clare Whitfield

    Review | Extract

    1 December 2020

    Intrigue and Suspense: Read an Extract from People of Abandoned Character by Clare Whitfield

      People of Abandoned Character is a A Hair-Raising Historical Thriller from Clare Whitfield

      Review | Our Review

      30 November 2020

      People of Abandoned Character is a A Hair-Raising Historical Thriller from Clare Whitfield

        Better Reading Preview: People of Abandoned Character by Clare Whitfield

        Review | Preview

        27 October 2020

        Better Reading Preview: People of Abandoned Character by Clare Whitfield

          Publisher details


          What would you do if you thought your husband was Jack the Ripper? A dark historical crime novel.He is my husband. To honour and obey. Until murder do us part. London, 1888: Susannah rushes into marriage to a young and wealthy surgeon. After a passionate honeymoon, she returns home with her new husband wrapped around her little finger. But then everything changes. His behaviour becomes increasingly volatile and violent. He stays out all night, returning home bloodied and full of secrets. Lonely and frustrated, Susannah starts following the gruesome reports of a spate of murders in Whitechapel. But as the killings continue, her mind takes her down the darkest path imaginable. Every time her husband stays out late, another victim is found dead. Is it coincidence? Or is he the man they call Jack the Ripper?
          Clare Whitfield
          About the author

          Clare Whitfield

          Clare Whitfield is a UK-based writer living in a suburb where the main cultural landmark is a home store/Starbucks combo. She is the wife of a tattoo artist, mother of a small benign dictator and relies on a black Labrador for emotional stability. She has been a dancer, copywriter, amateur fire breather, buyer and mediocre weight lifter. This is her first novel.

          Books by Clare Whitfield


          Leave a Reply

          Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *