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Friday 7 October 2016

‘The Chelsea Strangler’ by Susanna Gregory

Published (HB) by Sphere,
14 January 2016.
ISBN: 978-0-7515-5283-6.
(PB) 6 October 2016.
ISBN: 978-0-75155282-9

The year is 1665 and London is in the grip of the plague. The English have just defeated the Dutch fleet at the battle of Lowestoft and have returned to Harwich. Thomas Chaloner , spy for the Earl of Clarendon is among them. The King and many of the nobility are preparing to go to Hampton Court to escape the plague.

Thomas Chaloner is engaged to go to Chelsea and visit a house, Gorges, an asylum for women. There have been many thefts and the Earl is one of the benefactors. Chaloner also learns of a murder of one of the inmates, a girl by the name of Nancy, she has been strangled.

While Chaloner is at a party being given by the Earl, also in Chelsea, there is another murder, actually in the Earl's house, and Chaloner is told to look into the stranglings.

Rumours abound concerning a “spectre” that many people claim to have seen and when the murders start to mount up they suspect the “ghostly figure” but Chaloner is not so sure.
In the same vicinity is a Theological College being used to hold Dutch prisoners from the battle of Lowestoft. Chaloner is told to check on the security there whilst he is in the area. He tries to inspect the prison but is frustrated when it is obvious part of it is not what he is given to believe. He manages to sneak back in and finds evidence of corruption and bribery along with a list of names of the King's enemies. Could these be men held secretly in the prison? Chaloner only just manages to escape with his life.

Near the prison is the Rectory run by a seemingly eccentric Reverend Wilkinson who talks continuously to his compost heap! What has he to do with strange goings on in the Rectory itself?
There follows one peculiar episode after another and Chaloner has to call upon all his wits to solve the many puzzles.

This is a really good book, full of interesting historical snippets. Susanna Gregory has created a wonderfully atmospheric London , I was almost worried about catching the plague! I am really interested in history and the historical notes at the back are worth reading. Many of the characters in the book actually did exist.

A great story weaving a really tangled web cleverly untangled by a persistent Chaloner.
Reviewer: Tricia Chappell

Susanna Gregory was raised in Bristol. After graduating from university, she spent three years in Leeds, as an officer in the West Yorkshire Police, before taking up an academic career. She has served as an environmental consultant, doing fieldwork with whales, seals and walruses during seventeen field seasons in the polar regions, and has taught comparative anatomy and biological anthropology. She is the creator of the Thomas Chaloner series of mysteries set in Restoration London as well as the Matthew Bartholomew books, and now lives in Wales with her husband, who is also a writer.


Tricia Chappell. I have a great love of books and reading, especially crime and thrillers. I play the occasional game of golf  (when I am not reading). My great love is cruising especially to far flung places, when there are long days at sea for plenty more reading! I am really enjoying reviewing books and have found lots of great new authors.

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