The CHOCOLATE HOUSE MYSTERIES, set in the London of Queen Anne (1702-14), represent a new departure for David after a career of researching and writing about that period and bringing it alive for students. Born in Kingston-upon-Hull, Yorkshire, he studied in Oxford for ten years before taking up a post at the University of Leeds, where since 1999 he has been Professor of Eighteenth-Century English Literature. He has published three books on Alexander Pope and many other studies of the poetry of the period, notably English Poetry of the Eighteenth Century (2004) and Organising Poetry: The Coleridge Circle (2009). He now finds himself on the other side of the creative fence, writing from inside a world he has inhabited imaginatively for fifty years.
His three ‘Chocolate House’ novels, CHOCOLATE HOUSE TREASON, THE DEVIL’S CATHEDRAL, and CAPTAIN HAZARD’S GAME are all set in the year 1708 in the months following the Act of Union when ‘Great Britain’ was finding its new identity. The books interweave their murder plots with the actual events of that year. Historical and fictional characters intermingle.
At this time Londoners sensed that with the turn of the century a new age was inaugurated and a recognisably ‘modern’ nation was taking shape. Party politics as we know them were beginning, and a ruthless business world, a liberated press, and a lively culture were transforming the shape of society.
It was a time when debate and controversy were in the air, and the London coffee houses were the social media hubs of their time, gathering-places for news and intrigue, for circulating rumours and hatching plots – and therefore ideal for a writer of historical mysteries! The beating heart of these books is the Bay-Tree Chocolate House, Covent Garden, where Widow Trotter presides over a world of ideas and debate, of wit and good conversation. She and her young friends Tom (a poet) and Will (a law student) form a resolute detective trio, righting wrongs, confronting villainous conspiracies, and solving murders. In the process the three of them become caught up in the national drama.
In these three mysteries a system of power finds itself challenged by a substratum of local sociability, good humour and quiet determination – that other side of the period’s character exemplified by Widow Trotter’s little kingdom of the Bay-Tree. This clash of worlds forms the novels’ social comedy and drives their plots in a combination of whodunit and conspiracy thriller.