The first book I read in the second week’s of September, and for the longest time it was on a solid track for a 4 1/2 or even 5-star rating. Tremendously atmospheric, with London (both 17th century and present day) not so much merely setting but additional character and two timelines tantalizingly mirroring and winding around each other like the two strings of a double helix. From early on, this is also a book that knows very well just how clever it is, but during the first 90-95% that doesn’t matter a jot … until it does in the end and Ackroyd takes “clever” a step too far into the symbolic, as a result of which the ending is seriously deflating. What a pity that he proved unable to contend himself with an actual dénouement (however cleverly constructed and meaningful) and instead chose to let narrative lift off and take flight straight into the ether instead. Still, for the vast majority of its contents, definitely a recommended read — and the beginning in particular, set in the days of the 1665 plague and tying together the plague, a satanic cult, church construction and murder (mirrored by present-day murders in the same churches), definitely packs a punch.