Today’s featured mystery is another from the Susanna Gregory Thomas Chaloner adventures, A Murder on London Bridge. Set in Restoration England, Chaloner is a spy for the Earl of Clarendon, Lord Chancellor of England, one of the most hated men in England thanks to his passing of the Clarendon Code through parliament, a bill which all but made it illegal to worship in any other manner than Anglican. It is an uneasy time with “spying and treachery galore” according to Chaloner toward the end, and even then, he doesn’t have all the players sorted out. It was a time when no-one knew who they could trust and rebellion was in fomenting in every part of London.
Chaloner has been charged to follow an iconoclastic (a puritan who destroys Catholic church art — stained glass windows, sculptures, paintings, and are prepared to blow up the churches themselves), “Blue” Dick Culmer, and while Thomas is watching, an assassin sidles up to Dick and drives a blade straight through his heart. Thomas takes chase but ends up facing a dozen swordsmen with only the bombastic little soldier, Leigh, at his side. Chaloner finds Thurloe (former spy-master to Cromwell) keeping strange company, strongly suspects that Clarendon isn’t telling him everything he knows, is perplexed by the behaviour of the Dowager Queen (a devout Catholic herself), and if all that isn’t enough, his new love interest is determined not only to marry him but to help him sleuth despite his admonitions that they are dealing with extremely dangerous villains.
As always with Gregory, the story is well-researched and fast-paced — full of action, misdirection, double agents, and perilous predicaments for Chaloner. Historical notes at the back and a map of Restoration England in the front add immensely to the enjoyment of the story. I love the cover, too; I never realized that there were all those buildings on the bridge at that time. Amazing! It really adds to the atmosphere of the story — the threat of gunpowder blowing it up, digging for treasure and bones in the basements, carriages breaking down on the narrow passageway — it really gives you a picture of the time and place. The Epilogue hints that we haven’t seen the last of a couple of the villains and neither has Chaloner. * * * * *
If you, too, are a fan of mysteries, I hope you’ll not only enjoy my Monday posts but will contribute by publishing your own Monday Mystery, mentioning my meme, then come to my blog, comment on your mystery (or mine) briefly, and include the link directly to your mystery review. You can also copy my MMM badge to your post.