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by Quercus, 6 October 2016. ISBN: 978-1-78206-845 7
London 1655 and, as in the
author's previous Dagger-winning first title in The Seeker in the series
of that name, this novel is set during the rule of Oliver Cromwell who, since
the Parliamentarian victory in the English Civil War and the fall and
subsequent execution of King Charles I, had ruled through Parliament as Lord
Protector. He still does so but he is in control of the army which Parliament,
coming more and more under the influence of religious and political extremists,
wishes to take from him. Cromwell will have none of this and intends to abolish
Parliament and establish his own authoritarian rule. He has already dealt with
most of the Levellers who promulgated the idea of the equality of all men – the
idea! Whatever next! - although a few are still at large and being sought. But
now there are the Fifth Monarchists, who believe that, with Charles I dead, the
time has come to march on Rome and the Papacy after which assured victory it
would be time to prepare for Christ's return to earth. They are certainly
active with men and women preachers prophesying in many churches and on street
corners. And the exiled young King Charles II, living in penury in the
Netherlands, still has active supporters both here and abroad and they have
formed themselves into a secret organisation, The Sealed Knot. Many of their
plots are ridiculous and doomed to failure but could one succeed? Cromwell's
Secretary of State John Thurloe, master of a formidable intelligence network
both in England and abroad, is, through Damian Seeker, his chief investigator
and enforcer, always on the lookout for information. But Thurloe is seriously
ill and his precarious health allows the ambitions of some members of his staff
when the body of a man, dressed in the robes of a Dominican friar, the Order
having been banned from England in the previous century, is found when the old
Dominican priory is being demolished, Seeker goes to investigate. And it
becomes apparent that the body is not old: it is very recent and the man was
walled up alive and then died of suffocation. So if he wasn't a Dominican friar
who was he? Seeker recognises him: he is Carter Blyth, one of Thurloe's spies,
last known to be in the Netherlands and spying on the royalists and having died
there in an explosion. So what was he doing in England, calling himself Gideon
Fell and lodging with the family of Goodman Crowe? Father, wife Elizabeth and
daughter Patience and son Nathaniel, all, with the exception of the backward
Nathaniel, fanatical Fifth Monarchists? Is there a connection with the Fifth
Monarchist uprising which happens in the course of the narrative? Or was there
a connection between Blyth and Lady Anne Winter, passionate Royalist?
of the characters in the narrative have occurred in the previous Seeker novel
including Lady Anne herself, Samuel Kent, still keeping, with his niece Grace,
his popular coffee house in the heart of the City, the radical lawyer Elias
Ellingworth, more interested in publishing his revolutionary pamphlets than in
his legal practice. Are they involved in some way? And what about Maria,
Ellingworth's beautiful sister – she and Seeker have been lovers but his
loyalty to Cromwell and her strong support of her brother and his politics form
an apparently insuperable barrier. And four children have gone missing and all
have a connection to the New England schoolmaster Shadrach Jones. He seems
guileless, but is he? And is someone in Thurloe's staff involved?
this, and a great deal more involving other historical personages including the
poet Andrew Marvell and the diarist Samuel Pepys make for a satisfactorily
complex and fascinating story backed up by impeccable historical research, all
set in a time of extraordinary political and religious turmoil. Highly
------ Reviewer: Radmila May
S G MacLeanwas 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.
Shonawho 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.
Radmila Maywas 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.