As a founder member of Mystery Women in 1997, promoting Crime Fiction has always been my passion.
Following the closure of Mystery Women, a new group was formed on 30th January 2012 promoting crime fiction.
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by Quercus, May 2016. ISBN: 978-1-7820684303 (PB)
In 1654, six
years after Charles I was publicly beheaded in front of his royal palace of
Whitehall, Oliver Cromwell, leader of the Parliamentary forces who had defeated
the King’s forces in a long series of bloody battles, was securely established
as Lord Protector of England, king in all but name and now ruling without
Parliament. Cromwell was supported by the Army which he had fashioned into a
mighty force but nonetheless it was a time of plots and counterplots with
factions on all sides ranging from those supporting the exiled Charles II, son
of Charles I, in his penurious court in the Netherlands to various brands of
religious and political extremists. Many of these are in London, in disguises
of various sorts and using all sorts of elaborate codes to avoid discovery
while at same time issuing inflammatory pamphlets. John Thurloe, Cromwell’s
Secretary of State and master of a network of intelligence that reaches into
every corner of Europe, is tasked with ensuring Cromwell’s safety, and his
right-hand man is the mysterious Damian Seeker, Thurloe’s investigator and
enforcer. One particularly fanatical pamphleteer is the radical but impecunious
lawyer Elias Ellingworth who frequents Kent’s coffee house in the City of
London so when he is discovered by Seeker in Whitehall standing over the dead
body of John Winter, hero of Cromwell’s army, with a bloodied knife in his hand
he is the obvious suspect and is immediately arrested and taken to the Tower of
London. But Seeker is not satisfied that the murderer is Ellingworth; what, for
instance, was Winter’s wife, Lady Anne doing earlier that day in Kent’s coffee
house? And who was the Scotsman who had taken her back to her husband’s Whitehall
lodgings? And can Elias’s beautiful sister Maria cast any light on why her
brother had gone to Whitehall? And are the old Cromwellian soldier Jacob Kent
and his niece Grace hiding anything from Seeker? And among the various
customers of Kent’s coffee house are various Scots and Dutchmen – are they
involved in any way? In order to unravel these and other riddles Seeker must
traverse not only the courts and alleyways of London, as it was before the Great
Fire of 1666 of London, but also Oxford where loyalty to the Stuarts is still
strong and the new coffee-house culture as strong as in London.
I was as impressed with this novel, the
first of a new series featuring Damian Seeker and winner of the 2015 Crime
Writers Association Endeavour Historical Dagger, as I was with her earlier
Alexander Seaton sequence, reviewed in the Mystery People blogspot for April
2015 (www.promotingcrimeblogspot.co.uk/2015-05-01_archive.html ).
The plotting is complex yet meticulous
with hidden clues strategically placed, the historical context detailed and
convincing, and the characters well delineated. The next Seeker novel is to be
published in a few months and I look forward to reading it. Highly recommended.
S G MacLean was born in 1968 in Inverness
and grew up in the Scottish Highlands where her parents were hoteliers. She is the niece of world-famous thriller writer
Alistair MacLean. Shona who lives in
Conon Bridge with her husband, Dr James Vance, the rector at Golspie High
School, and their four children, has a PhD in history from Aberdeen University,
specialising in 16th and 17th- century Scottish history.
born in the U.S. but has lived in the U.K. since she was seven apart from seven
years in The Hague. She read law at university but did not go into practice.
Instead she worked for many years for a firm of law publishers and still does occasional
work for them including taking part in a substantial revision and updating of
her late husband’s legal practitioners’ work on Criminal Evidence published
late 2015. She has also contributed short stories with a distinctly criminal
flavour to two of the Oxford Stories anthologies published by Oxpens Press – a
third story is to be published shortly in another Oxford Stories anthology –
and is now concentrating on her own writing.