By S.G. MacLean
Here’s a puzzle for Damian Seeker. Carter Blyth, one of Thurloe’s secret agents has been found dead, hidden behind a wall (echoes of Sherlock or Jonathan Creek) and dressed as a friar. What’s going on? Did Seeker miss his invite to MI5’s tarts-and-vicars Christmas party?
It gets even more murky when it becomes known that various children have been going missing, that Anne Winter is up to something, and that Shadrach Jones is not some harmless gerund grinder in the days when such things mattered before student-centred learning became all the rage.
If that’s not enough, Seeker also has to deal with a whole crew of religious nut jobs who make Cromwell and his regime look positively enlightened in comparison, and the grave illness that has been afflicting Thurloe himself. (Aside: Is it just me, or has MacLean never noticed the irony of the man’s name, which contains the element Thor-?)
The second volume doesn’t quite have the engaging intricacies of the first, or the climax(es). The revelation of the machinery of Anne Winter’s trickery leads to no great moment, and the resolution of the plot line about the missing children is similarly flat. “Yeah, the kiddies were down the back of the sofa.”
Nonetheless, it’s quite fun to have the likes of Samuel Pepys and various other historical personages knocking about.
This may be Seeker’s second and last outing, or perhaps MacLean is going to take him to the mean streets of Yorkshire [Er, you do realise Yorkshire’s a shire, don’t you? –Ed.] where he can say, “There’s trouble at t’ mill” and “I certainly was expecting the Spanish Inquisition because I’d been reading MI5’s intelligence reports.” And he may also find Anne Winter still up to her pretty Royalist nose in plots to unseat Oliver Cromwell.