I came upon this author only a few weeks ago whilst killing ten minutes browsing in WH Smiths. I don't mean that she was actually lurking in the store but rather that my eyes were drawn to a book called 'The Cheapside Corpse' which had an interesting cover and, upon closer inspection, promised to be a historical mystery. When I realised that it was the latest in a series I decided to acquire the first one and start from the beginning (for once).
If you have been reading my reviews on a regular basis you'll know that I struggled with my last read and, if I am being honest, with a few books which I have not reviewed on here. I therefore needed something to restore my enthusiasm; something which was both well written and absorbing. I'm so pleased to say that this book was definitely that something.
It was first published in the UK in 2006 and begins a series following the adventures of Thomas Chaloner, an English spy recently returned to Restoration London from Holland. He finds himself penniless and in need of work. He turns to his previous employer and is soon treading a very fine and consistently dangerous line between a number of interlinked investigations and intertwined relationships. There is plenty of murder and intrigue to satisfy lovers of crime novels and the setting is so vivid that it drew me in at once and will doubtless appeal to fans of historical fiction. London in 1662 is brought to life superbly and in a subtle way which does not involve reams of description but rather provides an immersive backdrop to what turns out to be a complex story. It is extremely accomplished and I was not at all surprised to find that this author has an extensive back catalogue featuring another series character, Matthew Bartholomew, (set in the fourteenth century) and that there are many Thomas Chaloner novels for me to devour. It was a total pleasure, feeling like I was in the hands of an experienced and talented writer who would not let me down.
Having said all of that, I can see how some readers might find the sheer numbers of characters in this book overwhelming. Indeed, I found it hard to keep up at times, especially since many of them were referred to sometimes by first names, by second names and also by their titles (eg the Earl). At times I was lost but I went along with it and I kept up most of the time. A strong lead character with a few key people around him helped. but make no mistake, there is a lot going on in this book. The writing is so smooth that it is not difficult to read in that sense but the layers of complexity do necessitate a fair amount of recapping - done largely through the thoughts of Thomas Chaloner. So if you are looking for something simple, perhaps this isn't for you but I personally adored the fact that there was so much going on, lots of twists and red herrings and colourful characters. For the first time in a while I reached the end of a novel wishing I had the sequel already on my bookshelf. A hearty thumbs up and five stars from me.
In the new year I will doubtless be reviewing some of my Christmas reads, but I also hope to post a few writing-related articles. I am thinking: an update/reflection on how the experience of self-publishing 'Into Dust' has gone and also a piece on how I began writing, the path I have taken so far and some of the key decisions I have made along the way. In the meantime, thanks for reading and have a wonderful Christmas holiday x
I love most types of fiction - crime, mystery, fantasy. Oh, and historical fiction of course and middle-grade books and, well, you get the picture.
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