> Skip to content
About the book
  • Published: 1 August 2012
  • ISBN: 9780099531999
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 416
  • RRP: $19.99

Derby Day

A Victorian Mystery

A gripping novel of romance and rivalry, gambling and greed, from acclaimed novelist and biographer D.J. Taylor

As the shadows lengthen over the June grass, all England is heading for Epsom Downs – high life and low life, society beauties and Whitechapel street girls, bookmakers and gypsies, hawkers and acrobats, punters and thieves. Whole families stream along the Surrey back-roads, towards the greatest race of the year. Hopes are high, nerves are taut, hats are tossed in the air – this is Derby Day. For months people have been waiting and plotting for this day. Even in dark November, when the wind whistles through the foggy London courts, the alehouses and gentlemen’s clubs echo to the sound of disputed odds. In Belgrave Square old Mr Gresham is baffled by his tigerish daughter Rebecca, whose intentions he cannot fathom. In the clubs of St James’s rakish Mr Happerton plays billiards with his crony Captain Raff, while in darkest Lincolnshire sad Mr Davenant broods over his financial embarrassments and waits for his daughter’s new governess. Across the channel the veteran burglar Mr Pardew is packing his bags to return, to the consternation of the stalwart detective Captain McTurk. Everywhere money jingles and plans are laid. Uniting them all is the champion horse Tiberius, on whose performance half a dozen destinies depend. In this rich and exuberant novel, rife with the idioms of Victorian England, the mysteries pile high, propelling us towards the day of the great race, and we wait with bated breath as the story gallops to a finish that no one expects.

  • Pub date: 1 August 2012
  • ISBN: 9780099531999
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 416
  • RRP: $19.99

About the Author

D J Taylor

D.J. Taylor's novels include English Settlement, which won a Grinzane Cavour Prize, Trespass and Derby Day, both of which were long-listed for the Man Booker Prize, and Kept: A Victorian Mystery. His other books include After the War: The Novel and England Since 1945, Thackeray, Orwell: The Life, which won the 2003 Whitbread Biography Prize, and Bright Young People: The Rise and Fall of a Generation 1918–1940. He lives in Norwich with his wife, the novelist Rachel Hore, and their three sons.

Also by D J Taylor

See all

Praise for Derby Day

“Meticulously plotted and written with bouncy confidence... A rattling good yarn”


“Derby Day is a triumphant success...in this unputdownable Victorian romp [Taylor] enjoyably proves himself to be one of the finest of our 21st-century novelists”

AN Wilson, Financial Times

“The novel is richly redolent of the novels of Wilkie Collins, Dickens and Thackeray... The characters who plot and squirm throughout the course of Derby Day are fully rounded and memorably drawn and the atmosphere is palpable. In fact here is an intelligent novel which is also a genuine page-turner. Truly a terrific read”

Peter Burton, Daily Express

“Rich and gorgeous as a plum cake, this is absorbing entertainment indeed”

Kate Saunders, The Times

“Taylor, with patient stealth, assembles a ring of enjoyably seedy or unprepossessing figures...What distinguishes it from generic thriller-writing is the author's knowledge of the period”

Times Literary Supplement

“Taylor has written an exceptionally clever pastiche 19th-century novel with a richness of character that almost matches his models of Dickens and Thackeray”

Sunday Times

“Derby Day is pitch-perfect... It's enormous fun and meticulously researched and conceived”


“Taylor's great skill is in characterisation... In this accomplished work [he] has effectively captured the mutable nature of this unsettling period”

Literary Review

“Enjoyable, intelligent and thoroughly entertaining... Highly recommended”


“[Taylor's] prose is note-perfect and seems completely natural...Better still, he never forgets the 'mystery' part of that promise on the cover. As the great race approaches, the many strands of the story come together in a way that's wholly satisfying and exciting”

Daily Mail

“Taylor wears his research lightly but there is no doubt how much effort he has expended... The whole is an engaging drama - escapism of the highest standard”

Independent on Sunday

“Taylor manages to successfully pastiche a 19th-century mystery novel with this fast paced, enjoyable read”

The Times

“This is a book to read by the fireside, to be swept along in, to realise - with a start - that hours have gone by...In other words, to rediscover the lost-in-another-world joy of reading. And this book really IS a joy...my favourite book of the year so far”

Eastern Daily Press

“A delicious, highly intelligent page-turner... With clever, confident plotting and meticulous period details, this is an engrossing and deeply satisfying read”

Good book Guide

“As you would expect from somebody steeped in Victorian fictional history, Taylor rarely puts a foot wrong...the colourful events which take place on the Downs should delight any racing enthusiast”

Racing Post

“Taylor’s love and understanding of Victorian melodrama is put to good use in this tangibly detailed and deliciously written pastiche centred on an Epsom Derby swindle”

Sunday Telegraph

“This is a fictional world in which daughters are ready to bump off their fathers, husbands to exploit their wives, and everyone is happy to chance their assets on the wheel of fortune. It’s a novel that will keep you gripped until the very last furlong”

Emma Hagestadt, Independent

“It is a detective story as gripping as the Victorian novels that inspired it, and is written with narrative flair and a terrific sense of fun”

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, Daily Telegraph

“Derby Day will be hard to put down... As ever with Taylor, literary complexities lurk under the smooth surface of a stylish page-turner”

Conde Nast Traveller

“Derby Day will be hard to put down...As ever with Taylor, literary complexities lurk under the smooth surface of a stylish page-turner”

Conde Nast Traveller

Related titles