The sequel to HEART of CRUELTY is set in Dublin in 1849. William Doughty and Jane Verity meet again.

They are long parted, yet they need to face a perilous city together…

In Victorian Dublin, wealth contrasts savagely with squalid poverty, the bitter injustices of the Great Famine create a generation of the dispossessed, and hospitals are overwhelmed with pandemic disease. Dissent is driven underground. Deaths haunt every street, but some are not due to natural causes: patients who should have recovered are dying, and a violent gang murders in plain sight.

Jane, a theatrical pianist, has married Edmond Verity, a celebrated actor. When his lost love performs in Dublin, Dr William Doughty knows that he must stay away from her. But Edmond, a gambler struggling with his past, finds a physician whose first passion is his racing stable, so that in a storm of changing fortunes, Jane must find a way to survive.

Exploring a pivotal epoch in Irish history, this is an intricate tale of music and medicine, of trust and trickery, of destructive secrets and lost love: compelling, intriguing and poignant.

Praise for ‘The Piano Player’:

‘Expertly researched, compellingly narrated – a terrific read’ – Patricia O’Reilly (The First Rose of Tralee, Orpen at War)

‘A rich tapestry of a novel…deception, past love, hard choices, amidst the cruelty of the times.’ – Jo Schaffel (Somewhere Besides Denver)

‘An entrancing and gripping story, beautifully told…a great historical thriller.’ – Susan Lanigan (White Feathers, Lucia’s War, Unfortunate Stars)

‘Deliciously terrifying!’  – Annette Libeskind Berkovits (The Corset Maker)

‘Evocative and immersive…bringing the horror of the Famine alive.’ – LM West (This Fearful Thing, The Unnamed) 

I emigrated from England to Ireland when I was part way through writing my debut novel HEART of CRUELTY. I was tempted to move its setting but it would have meant some fundamental changes. Now in THE PIANO PLAYER I finally visit 19th century Dublin, a few years after HEART of CRUELTY ends.

The mid 1840’s saw the Great Famine in Ireland, accompanied by famine fever (typhoid and typhus). 1847 was the worst famine year (Black ’47), but in 1849 Ireland also suffered a cholera pandemic. During this time, the practice and teaching of medicine in Dublin was in a golden age when hospitals were developing from mere holding institutions for the destitute sick to become centres of excellence where medical treatment advanced. Doctors came from all over Europe to Dublin to learn.

Millions of people died or left Ireland during the Famine. The potato crop failures were accompanied by large-scale rural evictions. Landowners were taxed according to the number of tenants, so that even tenants who were up to date with their rent represented a financial burden which they would not support. Their bailiffs carried out brutal evictions, burning roofs off cottages to make them uninhabitable. They left whole families dying of cold, starvation and disease in makeshift shelters, in ditches by the road, or, if able to make the journey, in the big cities: Dublin, Cork and Limerick, in what were considered to be the worst slums in Europe. During all this, huge quantities of meat and grain continued to be exported by the landowners, under armed guard, to Britain. This is why the famine was far more than a natural disaster, and is often argued to have been a form of genocide, or ‘genoslaughter’.

In 1848, inspired by uprisings across Europe, there had been an abortive attempt at an Irish Nationalist uprising, followed by suppression of Nationalist newspapers and the arrest, conviction and transportation of ‘seditious’ journalists. There was also an extravagant state visit to Ireland by Queen Victoria in 1849, and a failed attempt by the nationalists to kidnap her. In 1849 the glittering life of the elite and the progress being made in medical knowledge contrast sharply with the misery of the Dublin slums and the suppression of dissent.

In THE PIANO PLAYER, Jane and William will re-encounter each other after a long period apart. There are many barriers between them, yet they still need each other.  And I’m introducing two new Irish characters: Anna, an aspiring writer inspired by Jane Elgee (‘Speranza’, later Lady Jane Wilde), and Joseph, a young doctor inspired by the Irish nationalist Kevin Izod O’Doherty. 

Here’s my impression of the cover … 


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