Janet Ellis

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The Butcher's Hook

book | Fiction | 2016
UK & Comm → Hodder and Stoughton
US → Pegasus
Canada → Anansi Press

Georgian London, in the summer of 1763.

At nineteen, Anne Jaccob is awakened to the possibility of joy when she meets Fub, the butcher's apprentice, and begins to imagine a life of passion with him. 

The only daughter of well-to-do parents, Anne lives a sheltered life. Her home is a miserable place. Though her family want for nothing, her father is uncaring, her mother is ailing, and the baby brother who taught her to love is dead. Unfortunately her parents have already chosen a more suitable husband for her than Fub.

But Anne is a determined young woman, with an idiosyncratic moral compass. In the matter of pursuing her own happiness, she shows no fear or hesitation. Even if it means getting a little blood on her hands.

A vivid and surprising tale, The Butcher's Hook brims with the colour and atmosphere of Georgian London, as seen through the eyes of a strange and memorable young woman.


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Liz Dennis manages the translation rights for The Butcher's Hook


Ellis has created something marvellous in the character of Anne Jacob - her voice is strange, dark and utterly mesmeric. This is historical fiction as I've never encountered it before: full of viscera, snarling humour and obsessive desire. I loved it. 

Hannah Kent, bestselling author of BURIAL RITES

A story of dispassionate, bloody brilliance rich in believable period detail,


This author remains one to watch. She has a sharp eye and a sharper wit. More importantly still, she possesses a subtle and compassionate understanding of the human heart.


Ellis has a public personality of great charm, and a good deal of this gets into her writing... She revels in the historical details, has a grasp of pace and knows how to keep her audience hooked.

The Times

A strange, unsettling story.

Sunday Times

There's a wit and a richness to the writing, a nice way with pastiche, and a real feel for the macabre. And, in Anne, she has created an engaging and at times daringly amoral heroine.

Observer (Paperback of the Week)

Ellis has created a surprising blend of psychological thriller and revenge tragedy in her debut novel.

Daily Mail

This is a dark, weird, gloriously feminist story of a girl in 1763 pushing against the limits of her role and a dark love story.


Genre fiction is littered with predictable heroines — unassuming yet magnetizing women with innate talent and much to learn. It’s a cliché that rings hollow, and thankfully, it’s nowhere to be seen in Janet Ellis’ debut novel.

PASTE Magazine

The sonnets of John Donne provide a brooding counter-point to this nervy historical novel. With wry winks to Shakespeare and dramatis personae evocative of commedia dell’arte.

New York Times Book Review

Terrific... Anne is no 18th-century milquetoast heroine in love. Her savagely witty observations of those around her reveal a sharp and cunning mind... Every word of it is really very good.


Beautifully crafted. Janet Ellis is a masterful storyteller.

Clare Mackintosh, bestselling author of I LET YOU GO

Punchy and fast-moving. Janet Ellis' period piece brilliantly captures the visceral sights and smells of the time and regardless of (or because of) her twisted morals, Anne's strong voice reels you right in.

Sydney Morning Herald