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A Conspiracy of Violence
Thomas Chaloner Series, No 1

by Susanna Gregory

       You won't find Matt and Michael in here; this is the start of a brand new series for this popular author. The Restoration is in full swing, but Thomas Chaloner isn't very happy about it. His former employer, the equally former spymaster John Thurloe has fallen from favor now that Cromwell is history, and his replacement doesn't want Chaloner on his staff. The nephew of one of the Regicides, Thomas has no money and no employment, but Thurloe is determined to help him. Maybe the Earl of Clarendon might be able to find work for him? Finding a legendary cache of gold coins is his task, but a lot more than that ends up being unearthed.

Fans of Susanna Gregory's other series will know to expect a wild time with plenty of laughs and improbable happenings, a high body count and bizarre characters. This series is going to be far more restrained, with far fewer things to cause mirth, a darker tone and a fair bit of real history. But leopards don't change their spots and at times, this story reminded me of a tethered balloon in a strong wind, desperately trying to take off into the wild gales of fancy. We have a terrifying turkey that is determined not to be Christmas lunch, a lion on the loose and several rather colourful characters, as well as a lot of action. This is probably Gregory's most thrilling book to date, which hits the ground running with a breathless chase scene and the first of many bodies. Is it too long? No whodunit needs to be over five hundred pages long, history notwithstanding, but it struggles to fill up all those pages with action-packed cloak-and-dagger plot and it very nearly manages it. The Bartholomew series mainly works well when it is at its wackiest, or it treads water, but this has more stuffing. Perhaps it is the Christmas setting. I look forward to the next installment.

Reviews of other titles in this series

A Conspiracy of Violence
Blood On The Strand
The Butcher of Smithfield
The Westminster Poisoner
A Murder on London Bridge
The Body in the Thames

The Book

Time Warner Books UK
19 January 2006
Historical Crime [1662, London]
More at US || UK
NOTE: Christmas Holiday

The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2006
© 2006