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Sunday 21 August 2022

‘The Lost Diary of Samuel Pepys’ by Jack Jewers

Published by Moonflower Books,
4 August 2022.
ISBN: 978-1-9196187-4-6 (HB)

The year is 1669 and things are not going well for Samuel Pepys, Clerk of the Acts to the Navy Board; working for the Restoration Government with Charles II as monarch. The story begins when the London brothel that Pepys is frequenting is burned to the ground. He and his young friend and assistant, Will Hewer, escape unharmed but, in Pepys’ case, with a humiliating lack of clothing. As well as this embarrassing incident, Pepys is plagued by an increasingly severe pain in his groin and, considering his lifestyle, fears what he has contracted. To add to his troubles, his wife, Elisabeth, has grown weary of his adultery and increasingly distressed by the disintegration of their relationship, she has decided to return to her family in Devon. Just when Pepys thinks things couldn’t get any worse, he is commanded by his superior, Lord Albemarle, to travel to Portsmouth to investigate discrepancies in the naval accounts of the warship, the Prince Rupert. Albemarle distrusts the Governor of Portsmouth, Lord Maynard, and is seriously disturbed that Elias Thorne, the man that Albemarle had originally sent on this mission has been murdered and his body was hideously mutilated. The political situation is extremely sensitive at this time and war with the Dutch seems imminent. This could be disastrous as the navy is in extremely poor condition. Most of the ships and weapons are in poor repair and the seamen are dissatisfied because they are owed arrears of pay.

Pepys and Will endure an uncomfortable journey to Portsmouth and when they arrive at the Governor’s House they are greeted with insolence and indifference by Captain Harcourt, the Governor’s assistant. They have to seek lodging at a nearby public house, where they are treated with civility, but Pepys is sure the people they question are lying when they deny all knowledge of the murdered man, Elias Thorne. When Pepys eventually catches up with Lord Maynard, he is invited to a banquet at Admiralty House that night, there he is pleased to encounter an old friend, Benjamin Arden, the Deputy Governor of Portsmouth. Later that evening, Pepys sees Lord Maynard with a beautiful and elegant lady who he later discovers is Charlotte de Vere, a wealthy widow and head of a powerful household. The next day, Lord Maynard is discovered brutally murdered.

Still battling ill health, Pepys struggles to investigate the murders of Maynard and Thorne and the problems concerning corruption in the Portsmouth dockyard. At great risk to his own life, Pepys helps to apprehend a suspect. He and Will are hailed as heroes who have solved the crimes and, as soon as Pepys is well enough, they head back to London. However, before they get there, their comfortable solution proves to be a false one. Soon Pepys and Will are engaged in a new phase of the investigation, which is even more dangerous than the ordeals they have survived, where nothing is as it seems and, apart from each other, they are uncertain who they can trust. The one thing they are certain of is that the safety of the kingdom depends on their success.

The Lost Diary of Samuel Pepys is written in the First Person and dated in diary form. It is a fictional account of how Pepys rose to eminence during the reign of Charles II. The narrating voice is believably the Samuel Pepys of his original diaries, egotistical, arrogant and adulterous, although as the book progresses, he becomes a much more likeable character. The historical detail is precise, authentic and well described, although certain details of the geography and the governorship of Portsmouth have been altered to fit the complex and well-constructed plot, and this is acknowledged in the historical notes.

The Lost Diary of Samuel Pepys is an interesting, fast-paced read, which I recommend.

Reviewer: Carol Westron

Jack Jewers is a filmmaker and writer, passionate about history. His career has been spent telling stories in all media, and his body of work includes film, TV, and digital media. His films have been shown at dozens of international film festivals, including Cannes, New York, Marseille, Dublin, and London’s FrightFest, garnering multiple accolades, including an award from the Royal Television Society and a nomination for Best Short Film by BAFTA Wales. The Lost Diary of Samuel Pepys is his first novel.

Carol Westron is a successful author and a Creative Writing teacher.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  Her first book The Terminal Velocity of Cats was published in 2013. Since then, she has since written 6 further mysteries. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. To read the interview click on the link below.

To read a review of Carol latest book click on the title
The Curse of the Concrete Griffin

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