Author: Susanna Gregory, 2008.
Genre: Historical Fiction. Restoration. Spy Thriller.
Other Details: Paperback. 512 pages.
Thomas Chaloner, just returned from a clandestine excursion to Spain and Portugal on behalf of the Queen, finds London dank and grey under leaden skies. He finds many things changed, including the Government slapping a tax on printed newspapers. Handwritten news reports escape the duty, and the rivalry between the producers of the two conduits of news is the talk of the coffee houses with the battle to be first with any sort of intelligence escalating into violent rivalry. And it seems that a number of citizens who have eaten cucumbers have come to untimely deaths.
It is such a death which Chaloner is despatched to investigate; that of a lawyer with links to 'the Butcher of Smithfield', a shady trader surrounded by a fearsome gang of thugs who terrorise the streets well beyond the confines of Smithfield market. Chaloner doesn't believe that either this death or the others are caused by a simple vegetable, but to prove his theory he has to untangle the devious means of how news is gathered and he has to put his personal safety aside as he tries to penetrate the rumour mill surrounding the Butcher of Smithfield and discover his real identity. - synopsis from UK publisher's website.
This was another superbly crafted Restoration thriller with Thomas Chaloner again embroiled in solving a mystery linked to his patron. This one had a great many strands to it, which all came together by the final pages. Again the supporting cast is populated by minor historical figures (and a few major ones). I remain deeply impressed by the depth of research Gregory has undertaken in this series. The streets of 17th century London come alive under her pen. I also had no idea that cucumbers were ever considered dangerous to eat but apparently in the 17th century they had a bad reputation.
This is not a series that I can read too quickly as the writing is quite dense and requires close reading. Still, I plan to enjoy these in due course.
Susanna Gregory's page on The Butcher of Smithfield' - includes alternative synopsis and excerpt.