Towards the end of Peter Ackroyd’s first novel, The Great Fire of London, he says; ‘This is not a true story but certain things follow from other things.’ It is a good description of his latest novel, Hawksmoor, which is again concerned with an imaginative examination of the nature of cause and effect across time. Again the setting of the book is London and whereas previously the London of Dickens darkly influenced the modern city, this time it is an even older London of the early eighteenth century that reaches out to disturb the present. Indeed, Ackroyd seems to go one stage further and suggest that not only is the present saturated with the past, but somehow the past is permeated by the events of the present. The result is an extraordinary novel which takes place in both 1700 and today, yet which is not two narratives but one continuous story.
Nicholas Dyer is an architect, a former pupil of Sir Christopher Wren, who is commissioned to build seven new parish churches in the aftermath of the Great Fire. Nicholas Hawksmoor is a police detective investigating a series of modern murders that have been committed on the sites of various eighteenth-century