Death in St James's Park by Susanna Gregory
Five years after Charles II's triumphant return to London there is growing mistrust of his extravagant court and of corruption among his officials - and when a cart laden with gunpowder explodes outside the General Letter Office, it is immediately clear that such an act is more than an expression of outrage at the inefficiency of the postal service.
As intelligencer to the Lord Chamberlain, Thomas Chaloner cannot understand why a man of known incompetence is put in charge of investigating the attack while he is diverted to make enquiries about the poisoning of birds in the King's aviary in St James's Park. He becomes even more suspicious of his employer's motives when he discovers that the witnesses he needs to interview have close links to the business conducted in the General Letter Office, activities more firmly centred on intercepting people's mail than delivering it.
Then human rather than avian victims are poisoned, and Chaloner knows he has to ignore his master's instructions and use his own considerable wits to defeat an enemy whose deadly tentacles reach into the very heart of the government: an enemy who has the power and expertise to destroy anyone who stands in the way…
I am well aware my effusive praise of the peerless Susanna Gregory is a common thread whenever I review her books (and I have no association with the author whatsoever) so I shall limit myself to declaring that this is as good as anything she has produced.
The story is multi-threaded with multiple plots designed to confuse Chaloner who is commanded by Clarendon to go investigate the poisoning of several fowl in St James Park. This is ostensibly so Clarendon's new "Marshall" - Gery - can command the investigation of the Post Office. Two plots abound there - "The Devilles Work" and blatant corruption of the accounts. What with Clarendon threatening to send Chaloner off to Russia pronto and a very nasty poison making the rounds coupled with exploding carts full of logs, our sleuth is having a difficult time. As usual the culprits and suspects are scattered from low society to high and this novel is concerned with the settling of old scores and the murky work of double and even triple agents.
What makes this one slightly different is that Gregory decides to send Chaloner's troublesome Hannah and servants off to Buckinghamshire to get them out of the way of her pen and we conclude with a postscript telling us that Tom is in serious trouble when he heads off to the Tsar with a changed set of missives and glass replacements for the jewels. It leaves us anticipating what is going to happen and wonder if Gregory is going to have Tom's next adventure outside London.
As ever, Gregory is a guilty pleasure; an author that demands a reader curl up in a wing-back chair next to a fire, have glass of wine in easy reach and then asks you to lose yourself in Tom's or Matthew's adventures for several hours. It's a "five stars and beyond" read. Every single time.
This Death in St James's Park book review was written by travelswithacanadian
All reviews for: The Exploits of Thomas Chaloner
A Conspiracy of Violence
The Exploits of Thomas Chaloner: Book 1
The dour days of Cromwell are over. Charles II is well established at White Hall Palace, his mistress at hand in rooms over the Holbein bridge, the heads of some of the reg...
The Cheapside Corpse
The Exploits of Thomas Chaloner: Book 10
London in the spring of 1665 is a city full of fear. There is plague in the stews of St Giles, the Dutch fleet is preparing to invade, and a banking crisis threatens to lea...
The Chelsea Strangler
The Exploits of Thomas Chaloner: Book 11
In the sapping summer heat of 1665 there is little celebration in London of the naval victory at the Battle of Lowestoft. The King, his retinue and anyone with sufficient m...
The Piccadilly Plot
The Exploits of Thomas Chaloner: Book 7
Thomas Chaloner is relieved to be summoned back to London. His master, the Earl of Clarendon, has sent him to Tangier to investigate a case of corruption. Chaloner will be ...
Death in St James's Park
The Exploits of Thomas Chaloner: Book 8
Five years after Charles II's triumphant return to London there is growing mistrust of his extravagant court and of corruption among his officials - and when a cart lad...
Murder on High Holborn
The Exploits of Thomas Chaloner: Book 9
In 1665 England is facing war with the Dutch and the capital is awash with rumours of conspiracy and sedition. These are more frenetic than normal because of the recent sin...
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