Head of Zeus has snared Clare Whitfield’s “explosive” debut novel about a woman who suspects her husband is Jack the Ripper, in a two-book deal.
Commissioning editor Madeleine O'Shea bought world rights from David Headley at D H H Literary Agency. The first book in the deal, People of Abandoned Character, will be published in October 2020 as Head of Zeus’s lead crime debut for that year.
The synopsis explains: “When Susannah Chapman rushes into marriage with wealthy surgeon Thomas Lancaster, she believes her future is set. But after the honeymoon things start to turn sour at home, and as Susannah follows the newspaper reports of the terrifying killer stalking the streets of Whitechapel, her suspicions over where her errant husband has been spending his time take the darkest route possible.”
O’Shea said: “This book has the biggest, most explosive central hook – a new bride suspects her mysterious husband of being the notorious killer, Jack the Ripper. How could you not be gripped? People of Abandoned Character is page-turning for sure, but it also engages with important questions on gender, class and mental health, making it a book for crime-lovers and reading groups alike.”
According to HoZ, Whitfield lives in a UK suburb where the main cultural landmark is a home store/Starbucks combo. She is the wife of a tattoo artist, mother of a benign dictator and relies on a black Labrador for emotional stability. She has been a dancer, copywriter, amateur fire breather, buyer and mediocre weight lifter.
She said: “I’m fascinated by characters that tread a fine line between right and wrong. Can a bad deed ever be right if it’s necessary to survive? My main character, Susannah, has to navigate Victorian London in the 1880s, a chaotic and unequal society, and I’m beyond thrilled she’s found a home at Head of Zeus.”