We begin in 1648, a few hours after the battle of Preston has ended, as Sir Mortimer Shay walks over the battlefield in search of a particular individual - dead or alive. The evocation of the aftermath of a 17th century battle is powerful and introduces an exhilarating and frightening journey around the British Isles. Sir Mortimer becomes the leader of the rebuilding of the royalist opposition to Parliament and Cromwell’s army with the title Comptroller-General for Scrutiny and Survey. He travels endlessly around to meet his agents - in fact the complexity of the novel’s structure means that we follow many individuals and groups in their journeys making it hard to know who is described and which side they support until you become familiar with the relevant names. It does help if you know something of the era and the major figures in Britain and Europe who appear or are mentioned. A cast of characters, real and fictional, would have been helpful perhaps though you could argue that the reader is pursuing his own detective story in working out who is who and where he or she fits into the tale. A note on the complexities of 17th century politics and wars would also be helpful though it would probably be rather long! An unusual feature of this book is the interspersing of real documents from the period among the adventures of the characters. The language of these is rich and lively as is the prose of the writer, Robert Wilton.
As events progress over three years we meet John Thurloe, a clerk on the Parliamentary side who is so capable and intelligent that he becomes Cromwell’s chief informant on what is happening. The period is one of fascination as Britain experiences its Revolution and people have to decide who to support. Our 2 protagonists weave their plots and strive to understand each others intentions and methods. It is very exciting as they reach a climax in the efforts to discover a traitor.
Reviewer: Jennifer Palmer
This is the second book of a series - the first is Treason’s Tide.
Robert Wilton has held a variety of posts in the British Ministry of Defence, Foreign Office and Cabinet Office. He was advisor to the Prime Minister of Kosovo in the lead-up to the country's independence, and has now returned there as a senior international official. He divides his time between Kosovo and Cornwall.
Jennifer Palmer Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries.
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