The Infernal Riddle of Thomas Peach – a homage to 18th-century fiction

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Wednesday September 1, 2021 at 5:53pm
This novel is a virtuoso performance. A literary homage to Fielding and Sterne, it tells the story of Thomas Peach, who moves to a remote corner of Somerset in 1785 to nurse his ailing wife. But his wife is never seen, and gossip is rife. Is Mr Peach “a scholar of mysterious arts”, and has he imprisoned his wife “in order to get his grasping hands on an inheritance”?

When Mr Peach travels to Bristol for a meeting of the Anti-Lapsarian Society, which aims to reverse the Fall of man, he encounters a young woman who is apparently possessed by a demon. This meeting leads, in true 18th-century style, to a sequence of picaresque adventures that present the reader with “puzzle and conundrum on every side”. But it is not the narrative that matters here so much as the vigour and rhythm of the narrative voice.

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