Blog tour: The Betrayal of Thomas True by A.J. West

The Betrayal of Thomas True

This post is part of a blog tour organised by Random Things Blog Tours. I received a free copy of the book in return for an honest review.

‘It is the year 1710, and Thomas True has arrived on old London Bridge with a dangerous secret.

‘One night, lost amongst the squalor of London’s hidden back streets, he finds himself drawn into the outrageous underworld of the molly houses.

‘Meanwhile, carpenter Gabriel Griffin struggles to hide his double life as Lotty, the mollies’ stoic guard.

‘When a young man is found murdered, he realises there is a rat amongst them, betraying their secrets to a pair of murderous Justices.

‘Can Gabriel unmask the traitor before they hang? Can he save hapless Thomas from peril, and their own forbidden love?’

The Betrayal of Thomas True

In The Betrayal of Thomas True, by A.J. West, the wide-eyed eponymous character swaps an unbearable life as a Reverend’s son in then-rural Highgate for a new, exciting one in central London.

Apprenticed to his uncle as a chandler, it’s not long before Thomas finds a place he can be his real self – Mother Clap’s Molly House in Holborn. There, he receives a cautious welcome, as rumours abound that there’s a rat among the mollies, passing their names on to the zealous Society for the Reformation of Manners.

At Mother Clap’s, Thomas bonds with Gabriel Griffin, a carpenter by day and molly house guard by night. Having suffered tragic losses in his life, Gabriel is determined to sniff out the rat who’s getting his friends killed. But will he solve the mystery in time?

Reading The Betrayal of Thomas True is certainly a physically and emotionally immersive experience!

The author describes the (often unpleasant, to say the least) sights and sounds of Georgian London in meticulous detail, and frequently sacrifices or endangers characters you’ve become attached to.

Fundamentally, with its central question of the Rat’s identity and fast-paced, eventful story, this novel is a thriller. But really, it’s far too expansive to be contained by any one genre. Historical fiction is the obvious additional category, not only because of the authentic sensory experience mentioned above, but because of the way the author uses real circumstances, locations and events as a springboard, moving things about to suit the story but retaining their essence. There’s a bit of fantasy and romance, too.

Similarly, West brings together, and does a great job of balancing, a whole range of tones. There’s naturally a lot of dark material, but I also found a great deal to smile or laugh about.

The developing relationship between Gabriel and Thomas is endearing, but not saccharine; the mollies are neither angels nor reprobates, but realistically complex characters; Mother Clap’s may be a crude and very “adult” place, but it’s a sanctuary, and by no means sordid (unlike, say, the public pilloryings and hangings of its patrons in the name of law and order…); the Justices are figures of ridicule, but also very much to be feared if you’re in their sights.

I wasn’t far ahead of the protagonists when it came to uncovering the rat’s identity, and was usually fooled or stumped when they were, too. Without revealing too much, there’s an evergreen message about how amiable, even bumbling façades can mask hearts of stone.

The ending is emotionally devastating, but, considering all that comes before it, is absolutely the right one for this particular story.

The Betrayal of Thomas True is vivid, evocative, and full of twists and turns.

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About Alice Violett

Writer of blogs and short stories, reader of books, player of board games, lover of cats, editor of web content, haver of PhD.

Colchester, UK