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Character Spotlight | Hemlock Jones & the Angel of Death – Justin Carroll

Author Justin Carroll on his protagonist, Hemlock Jones: “I love almost everything about Hemlock. She’s far and away my favourite character. I hugely enjoy writing about her and her exploits.” Check out this wonderful Character Spotlight!

Hemlock Jones & the Angel of Death
Winner of the 
Silver Medal
2017 Wishing Shelf Independent Book Awards
Silver Medal Winner's Badge


Hemlock Jones Chronicles #1

Ten doors down from the home of a world famous ‘consulting detective’ lives twelve-year-old Hemlock Jones, and her recently arrived housemate and unwitting companion, Edward Whitlow. Hired to ‘demystify’ the mystery of a man’s murder by a terrifying angelic spectre, Hemlock and Edward’s investigations will lead them all over Victorian London, uncovering bizarre and deadly foes, figures from Hemlock’s hidden past, and a plot to take over the city… Hemlock Jones & The Angel of Death is the first of the Hemlock Jones Chronicles, a series of detective adventures for children and adults, set in Victorian London.

I have read and reviewed Hemlock Jones and The Angel of Death and love this enjoyable and exciting detective novel with whimsical humour and attention for period detail – a great read for .. everyone! Click here to read my review.

The Hemlock Jones Chronicles

The Hemlock Jones Chronicles:
#1 Hemlock Jones & the Angel of Death –  – my review
#2 Hemlock Jones & the Underground Orphans (coming!!

*Character Spotlight* Hemlock Jones

| Who is Hemlock Jones

Hemlock Jones is a twelve-year-old girl who lives in an apartment in Baker Street, London. 211B Baker Street to be precise. She lives there with a guardian-come-landlady, Mrs Figgins. When we first meet Hemlock she is also meeting her new housemate, Edward Whitlow.

The reasons for how and why Hemlock lives at 211B Baker Street will probably come to light through the stories but, for now, I’ll simply say that, like many children in Victorian London, Hemlock’s past isn’t all sunshine and happiness.

The last thing to note about Hemlock is that, in between school, she is a “demystifier”. Unlike a certain ‘consulting detective’ who lives down the street, Hemlock isn’t a mere detective. As she says herself:

“A detective? Me? Why, I am offended! I am nothing so crass as a” – she spat the word as if there were no higher insult – “detective, following obvious clues to their equally obvious conclusion. I am a solver of puzzles, an unraveller of enigmas, a decipherer of conundrums. I,” her chin rose slightly, almost haughtily, “am a demystifier!”

| The Inspiration for Hemlock’s Character

The first obvious inspiration is Holmes himself. I thought the idea of a competitor or rival to Holmes could be fun, but not just another male genius. Sherlock’s rival needed to be different and also needed to be someone who could have been around, competing with him without Holmes or Watson realizing.

But, the most important inspirations came from the amazing, intelligent, independent women in my life, all of whom are far smarter than me. I wanted a female protagonist who doesn’t need a man, who is perfectly capable of doing what she does on her own.

| The Creation of Hemlock

I’m not entirely sure I know exactly how I created Hemlock. I think it was through Eddie. I wrote about him meeting her, about how she behaved towards him. Edward, and the reader witness Hemlock from the perspective of someone a bit less… Hemlock. It was and is easier for me to write about Hemlock as someone else. I think trying to write from inside the mind of someone like Sherlock or Hemlock would be… complicated.

So, through Eddie’s eyes, I was able to create a young woman, as smart as, or smarter than, Holmes, independent and competitive: Hemlock Jones.  Then, each time a new mystery or challenge presented itself, I could work out the leaps of demystification that Hemlock might make, and write about them from the perspective of someone who, like me, isn’t that smart.

| About Hemlock

I think Hemlock’s pretty complex to be honest. She feels like a real, rounded person. So, it’s hard to describe her completely.

She’s brilliant, as all great detectives (demystifiers!) are. She’s hard, and doesn’t much care about rules if they’re in the way of her unravelling a mystery. But, she’s also clearly more than just that. There’s warmth there, which I think comes through every so often.

She’s twelve, but seems older because she’s very smart and precocious. She’s aware of how to behave, but rarely behaves as a young lady in nineteenth-century should, unless she thinks it will help her get her way. She’s funny, or at least I think she is, albeit in a dry, sarcastic way. She might even be pretty, but that’s not really that important; it’s her brains and wits that we care about, not her looks. Certainly, if pressed, I think Eddie would say she was attractive if she’d just dress like a lady!

| Does she have any similarities with anyone ‘real’?
If so .. tell us more!

Hmm. I suspect some people would say Hemlock is like me in that she’s intelligent, observant and rather, shall we say, confident in her smarts. But, I’m not as clever as she is. I think she’s quite a lot like my god-daughter, actually, who is terribly, worryingly smart.

I guess she’s like a weird mix of Jennifer Lawrence, Benedict Cumberbatch, Poirot, Emma Thompson, and my mum.

| What do you like most about your character?

I love almost everything about Hemlock. She’s far and away my favourite character. I hugely enjoy writing about her and her exploits.

| What do you dislike about your protagonist’s character?

There really isn’t anything that I dislike. Though I suspect other people, like Eddie, would find her quite frustrating. She doesn’t tolerate fools, makes no effort to ensure people can keep up with her train of thought. And she clearly doesn’t give a damn about what people think.

| Would you and Hemlock be friends ‘in real life’?

Good question! I think we would, in the same way that Eddie and Hemlock are friends. Though there might be a little more rivalry between Hemlock and me…

| What’s Next?

I have a few things lined up! The first two are for Hemlock: I’ve written a short story to be featured in the Dulwich College 400th anniversary anthology, which is a wonderful thing. And I’m currently writing a second Hemlock novel, involving missing children and pirates and things. I’ve also written a book for older children, currently called Loksday, which is about a boy who finds an extra day in the week. It’s with my agent and we’re working out if he likes it enough. I like it a lot, but it’s not a typical narrative journey, so we are… negotiating.

But, regardless, there’ll be more Hemlock to come in 2018!

About Justin Carroll

Justin Carroll Author Image

Ever since he stopped wanting to be a dinosaur, Justin Carroll wanted to be a writer. He graduated with a degree in English Literature and Language from King’s College, London in 2004 and now, in between writing and moonlighting in marketing for a multinational financial services company, he fritters away his time on all manner of geeky things. Shortlisted for several international short story competitions, Justin was a finalist in the 2010 British Fantasy Awards – Hemlock jones & the Angel of Death is the Winner of the Silver Medal 2017 Wishing Shelf Independent Book Awards. 

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Book Info 

Available at Amazon:

Paperback  208 pages
 Publisher  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (8 April 2016)
 ISBN  978-1530581825
 eBook  838 KB


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