Taking place in Victorian England, Perry describes life in a small village in Essex where a serpent is believed by some to have caused the untimely deaths of a few of its citizens. Central among the book’s characters is Will Ransome, a minister who doubts the validity of the serpent, Stella, his wife, who firmly believes it exists and Cora Seaborne, a young widow from London who feels love and empathy for both Will and Stella. There are love triangles galore in this debut novel, with interesting, realistic secondary characters.
The Essex Serpent is a slow read written in the style of a Victorian novel with letters interspersed throughout the text. The story contains a slowly evolving plot with much detail about the Essex environment.