Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Review: The Butcher’s Hook – Janet Ellis


The Butcher’s Hook – Janet Ellis



London, summer 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.



Review: Brace yourselves.

I read a romance book.

And I liked it.

Of course, it’s a twisted, disturbing romance with a main character who murders her romantic rivals, but that’s a small detail. I’m still counting this as a romance.

Anne Jaccob is a nineteen-year-old woman living in London in the mid-1700s. She’s an upper-class lady who’s used to getting whatever she wants. Her parents have money, and Anne has servants to take care of her every whim. She’s very sheltered. Her parents rarely let her leave the house. She’s uneducated and has had very little contact with people outside her home. When the butcher’s boy, Fub, shows up at Anne’s door to deliver the family’s meat order, Anne immediately becomes infatuated with Fub’s strong body and the blood on his hands. Anne wants to marry Fub. And she’ll murder anyone who tries to stop her.

This book has mixed reviews on Goodreads, and I understand why. It’s gory and often crude. There’s sexual abuse and violent human and animal deaths. If you can’t handle reading about bodily fluids, you should avoid this book. All the fluids are present and accounted for. Anne is not a likeable character. She’s sex-obsessed and has no empathy for other humans. For Anne, people are just obstacles to overcome. She either kills them or manipulates them until they give her what she wants.

I like this book because it’s unusual. I’ve read and watched a lot of stuff about male serial killers, but you don’t often hear about women committing a string of brutal murders. To me, Anne’s behavior makes a twisted kind of sense. She’s spent most of her life in isolation, and she’s used to being handed whatever she asks for. She doesn’t know how to behave appropriately in public. When she meets Fub, she doesn’t understand why she can’t marry him. She’s never been told “no” before.

Anne’s murder spree is also a reaction to the oppression that women faced in 1700s England. Since Anne is a girl and can’t take over her father’s business, her father doesn’t see a reason to educate her. Her parents mostly ignore her. They give all their attention to her younger brother. Anne’s only purpose in life is to marry a wealthy, upper-class gentleman. Her parents have a man picked out for her, but Anne isn’t attracted to him. She wants Fub.


“Every girl hopes to find love and situation neatly bundled. It is hardly ever so.” – The Butcher’s Hook



Even as a child, Anne’s father uses her to impress his business clients. Anne’s only friend is the daughter of a rich businessman. Anne’s father encourages her to play nicely with the girl, but Anne doesn’t know how to be nice. She tries to impress her friend by showing her a rotting mouse corpse and then making her a necklace out of spit and hair.

Yeah. Anne is a strange character. She’s brilliantly messed-up. I think I’ll remember her for a long time.


“To my mind, we carry all that we need to survive, indeed to live well, in our heads and our hearts from birth. We must decide our own paths accordingly and individually. There is precious little other instruction available.”The Butcher’s Hook



I have two complaints about this novel. First, the typos. Why are there such obvious typos in a finished book? Whenever I came across a glaring error, it pulled me out of the story.

Next, the book has a saggy middle. Anne spends the middle of the novel meeting Fub in secret, having sex with him, and plotting murder. I got slightly impatient with it. I understand that Anne loves sex and only cares about Fub because he has a nice body, but I wanted to get to the murders.

Is literary historical horror fiction a genre? The Butcher’s Hook has pretty much everything I like in a story. A vivid setting, good writing, deeply flawed characters, and a few murders. I need to find more books like this.



TL;DR: Do you like historical fiction? Do you like horror? Do you have a strong stomach? If you answered “yes” to all those questions, read this book. It’s delightfully screwed-up.













37 comments:

  1. I answered yes to all your questions! Adding it on Goodreads now.

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  2. This definitely sounds like a unique book! Anne sounds so twisted!

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    1. Anne is one of the most twisted characters I’ve ever come across in fiction. She’s brilliant.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  3. You have me intrigued for sure with this one. I hate a saggy middle but sounds like it has a lot going for it

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    1. Yeah, the saggy middle sucks, but the murders are excellent. :)

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  4. I heard about The Butcher's Hook a little while ago, and now your review definitely makes me want to give it a try! "All the fluids are present and accounted for."—hah! That does make me a little nervous (I recently DNF'd Wicked because the author had a really weird obsession with bodily functions?) I do love the idea of focusing on a female serial killer for once, though, so I'm going to have to check this one out!

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    1. This book also seems to have a bit of a bodily function obsession. It’s gross. The female serial killer is great, though. We don’t see those in books very often.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  5. My friend read this a while ago and told me about it, and I really couldn’t decide if it was the sort of thing I’d like. It sounds very unusual, so I may just have to give it a go and see what I think.
    Great review! :)

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    1. It is unusual. I think it’s a book that people will either love or hate. The characters are all awful people.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  6. Yeah not much about this book would suit me! Great review though!

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  7. oh man you had me at "horror" "screwed-up" and "strong stomach"! [I guess I'm a little despicable! LOL] and I have been craving HF too! SO HELL YES!.

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  8. I don't honestly mind gory and almost crude stories and brilliantly messed up characters so I'm adding this one to my TBR as soon as humanly possible. Great review, and thanks for sharing!

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  9. See! You can like romance, you just had to find the right one. I am not a horror or gore reader, but there is something intriguing about serial killers. By the way, I loved this review!

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    1. Haha, I guess I finally found the right romance for me. I just need lots of murder and obsession to go along with my love stories.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  10. WHAT?? YOU LIKED A ROMANCE BOOK?! Seriously though, this sounds kind of awesome and this is the first I've ever heard of it. Super weird about the typos though.

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    1. LOL, YES! I enjoyed a romance book. There’s a first for everything, I guess.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  11. I think I would like this book! Romance and horror...yes, please! Too bad about the book having typos ~ I hate that!

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    1. Yeah, typos make me glare angrily. Especially when they’re painfully obvious.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  12. An unusual book for sure. Not sure if I'd pick this up... but great review!

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  13. I love that when you read a romance it’s gruesome and gory and basically twisted as hell. LOL

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    1. Haha, yeah, I’m not into that whole “happily ever after” thing. I want my romances to have a high body count.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  14. Haha this book sounds interesting! And also like a book I would never want to read (I prefer likeable characters, I know, I know, how boring but it is what it is)

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    1. That’s understandable. Most people probably don’t want to read 300 pages about terrible people.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  15. This sounds really different, it gives me a kind of "Sweeny Todd" kind of vibe. I'm intrigued but I don't I could handle the gruesome animal deaths. The human ones don't bother me!

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    1. Oh and I forgot to say that typos in a published book would really put me off. I mean, even if you self-publish you should get a proofreader!

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    2. LOL, I love that you can handle human deaths but not animal deaths. The typos are disappointing. All published books should be proofread.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  16. Well now I want to read it, it sounds so messed up and I am here for it! I feel you with the typos- especially multiple, especially if it is from a bigger publisher. Like come on, now my shiny finished copy is littered with errors! But I love how messed up Anne is- AND how memorable! I think I may need to give this one a try! Awesome review :D

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  17. Wait... wait... Anne is a serial killer?!?!?!

    I'm either really tired or this is a very deceptive synopsis, because I want to read this very twisted book with a female serial killer.

    I guess in a way I do relate to Anne in a way because I have NO clue how to act in public (aside from the common sense things, so probably nothing as extreme as Anne, but I do look like a deer in the headlights speaking to people I meet).

    I am definitely going to have to add this one to my TBR - brilliant and messed up is my type of book even if it sounds too disturbing for me. It'll be for future me. :D

    Sophia @ Bookwyrming Thoughts

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    1. The synopsis is deceptive. Anne murders anyone who comes between her and Fub. I’m also really bad at being in public! My life is basically one long awkward moment.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  18. This book sounds crazy, and dark, and just begging for a home on my shelf!! Thank you for introducing this to me *heart eyes*

    Cam @CamilleaReads

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  19. I like all of those things oh-so-much! I must find a copy of this book :)

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