Murder on High Holborn by Susanna Gregory
At the heart of this latest Chaloner mystery is the idiom: "the love of money is the root of all evil"; throw in a lot of superstitious ghostly stories around Holborn coupled with a charlatan "warlock", a few ridiculous plots by the Fifth Monarchists, some inept spies and a mighty fine cake maker and you've got all the necessary ingredients for another fine Susanna Gregory novel.
Thomas is back from his swift departure in the last novel to Russia. As predicted, his ship foundered in the ice and he lost all the jewels and missives from his master, the Earl of Clarendon - which provides Gregory a neat segue into this mystery when we open with the sinking of Admiral Lawson's ship, the 'London', in the Thames.
A temporary triumvirate of Clarendon, Prince Rupert and Spymaster Williamson order Thomas to investigate immediately after he's tasked with finding out who killed Paul Ferrine at Temperance's Gentlemans' Club. The former are concerned only to uncover treasonous plots now England is at war with the Dutch, the latter is trying to restore her club's good name. Unfortunately for Thomas he also has to infiltrate the Fifth Monarchists - who are espousing an Easter Day plot to blow up London - alongside the hugely inept spy William Leving. He does so as a gunpowder expert, replacing the dead previous incumbent of the post. On the plus side it does give him fair excuses to keep missing Hannah's pickled ling pie even if he does "feel like the worst kind of coward".
Into the seedy mix comes John Scott, self-professing Cartographer Royal; Lambe, the court mystic who specializes in both a fierce charisma, parlour tricks, and the help of Alice Fanshaw. A combination that predicts dire events that insidiously come to pass through all-too-human, nefarious deeds.
There is the Baptist Pastor, Nat Strange; the dissident, Roger Jones; a graveman, Manning; a drunk cannon maker, Sherwin; the watchmaker, Richard Quelch; a stockinger, John Atkinson - who is in a relationship with the baker, Ursula Adman; and a prostitute named Snowflake (far better than her real name of Consti Pate). The usual cast of characters ably assist with the narration - I do like the development of Wiseman as Tom's friend, even if he's a blatant reincarnation of Michael from Gregory's "Bartholomew" mysteries. There's also a nice cameo from Samuel Pepys, "navy clerk and member of the Tangier Committee".
The mystery is nicely confounding. It always is with Gregory - her puzzles are akin to the Times Crossword compared to other authors out there producing efforts that would only garnish "The Sun". This time we have plots with silver cannon, ideals of the 'Last Millennium', and a case of three hundred dead sailors to answer for. Everything to be neatly wrapped up in seven days; something Tom desperately needs to do with his wife's mounting debts and the brilliant idea Clarendon has to "fire" him so he can inveigle his way in with the conspirators - nonsalaried, of course.
Susanna Gregory remains my favourite current author; all other novels stop mid-read when one is available and the fact she is so prolific makes it almost a guilty pleasure to curl up in an armchair and ignore the world whilst being treated either to Plague Cambridge or Restoration London. Simply brilliant... long may it continue.
Murder on High Holborn by Susanna Gregory
Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Sphere (16 Oct 2014)
This Murder on High Holborn 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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