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Blood On The Strand
Chaloner’s Second Exploit in Restoration London

by Susanna Gregory


If you like Ms Gregory’s series about the adventures of Matt and Michael in mediaeval Cambridge then you are sure to feel the same way about her newer series. The Restoration is only three years old, and anybody who was employed by the Parliamentarians, like Thomas Chaloner (in his case as a spy), is out in the cold. He cannot find official employment, but instead works for the Earl of Clarendon, who is currently at daggers drawn with the Earl of Bristol and thus in need of a spy. But there is a murder to solve, as wealthy merchant Matthew Webb was killed after leaving a dinner, and nine people are supposed to have done it. But if this is so, why did it take nine men to dispatch one tipsy merchant, and why are only three of them in prison? When a mysterious "vagrant" is killed by another spy, Chaloner has even more work to do, which involves spending rather too much time with the Company of Barber-Surgeons.

If you have read her other books (including the first Chaloner novel, A Conspiracy of Violence, which is also reviewed on this site) you will know what to expect. Anarchic humor, bizarre characters and a high body count set against a historical backdrop. After a slightly more restrained start in the series debut, all of these things and more are in this tubby tome, which hits the ground running and - despite its awesome length - manages to keep rolling along without too much repetition. There is always something going on, whether it is lively banter, a chase, a scene with historical people or something pertaining to the various relationships between the series’ characters, so it is not boring. What does tend to get lost amid the mayhem and murky mystery is any real sense of history, as it is all seen through the concealing fog of humor which keeps the pages turning but, even with the useful notes at the back, leaves the reader wondering how much of it is authentic. Aphra Behn makes a welcome appearance and rings true, but Cromwell’s spymaster Thurloe is shown as being a gentle, almost saintly character which he could not possibly have been. Lots of fun though, and if Ms Gregory ever turns her hand to writing comic fantasy Pratchett and Holt had better look to their laurels.

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
Sphere (Little, Brown)
4 January 2007
ISBN-13: 9781847440020
Historical Crime - 1665, London
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The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2007
© 2006