Well said! It’s 1662, Charles II has been restored to the throne of England, his new court as decadent as Cromwell’s was prim, Cromwell’s ex-spymaster John Thurloe is being constantly watched and harassed by Charles’ new spymaster, Sir John Kelyng, and Thomas Chaloner, recently returned from Holland, is tragically out of the loop, politically speaking, in London, except that he knows enough to use the alias, Thomas Heydon since, thanks to his uncle, the name Chaloner is associated with regicide. England is on the verge of war with Holland, everywhere, former supporters of Cromwell are being ferreted out, Dutch and Puritans are being persecuted, and work is hard to come by, especially for Chaloner who has fallen out of favour with his former employer, Sir George Downing, who refuses to give him references. During his 10 years in Holland, Thomas assisted Downing by translating, as he knew the language and Downing did not, but his real work was spying on the Dutch for Thurloe. So it is to Thurloe Chaloner turns for assistance in procuring employment.
Thurloe sends him to the Earl of Clarendon, recommending him as an excellent intelligence gatherer, and privately asking Chaloner to find out who killed the man he’s replacing, Col. John Clarke. But Clarendon sets Thomas a task to find treasure supposedly buried under the Tower of London, and orders him to leave the murder investigation to Clarendon’s long-time assistant, Captain Evett. This is Chaloner’s second problem because he has already made enemies of the thugs working for Kelyng, who are now hunting him down for revenge. One other complication for Thomas is that his mistress, Metje, is Dutch. She has accompanied him home from Holland, and works for his neighbour, a Puritan named North, as companion to his daughter. She comes to Thomas most nights and has begun complaining that he is unable to provide for her, and that he has not been honest with her about his family. Which, of course, is true. She only knows him as Heydon.
Thomas is in an unenviable position. He has conflicting loyalties between Clarendon and Thurloe, is not getting complete information from anyone, and has no idea who he can trust, and who he cannot. As the task for Clarendon progresses, Thomas uncovers a brotherhood supposedly working quietly behind the scenes for peace and tolerance for all, consisting of an unlikely set of accomplices, and he soon begins to suspect that all the investigations are inter-connected, and that there is no-one he can trust except his mistress, Metje. One by one, witnesses are being murdered, and Kelyng sees regicides hiding everywhere. To top it off, Thomas is challenged to a duel for Christmas Day, the day he plans to ask Metje to marry him.
There are lots of exciting complications, and when a plot to kill the King is revealed, Thomas connects the dots and senses that Metje is in dire danger. He flies to her rescue, the pieces beginning to fall into place, and realizes he has misjudged almost all of the people he’s involved with, and almost loses his life as a result. A very thrilling, well told, and compulsive read. * * * * *
A Conspiracy of Violence is available from Amazon and other fine book sellers.