The King has fled London with the drums of war ringing in his ears. Across the country, lines are being drawn and armies raised.
Influential royalist Lady Carlisle switches sides and presses spice trader Thomas Tallant and his partner Elizabeth Seymour into Parliament’s service.
Soon Thomas faces double-dealing in his hunt for a lethal hoard of gunpowder hidden on the river, while Elizabeth engages in a race against time to locate a hidden sniper picking off Parliamentary officers at will in the city.
The capital also witnesses a vicious gang of jewel thieves take advantage of the city’s chaos to go on the rampage, smashing homes and shops, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. They hand pick their targets but refrain from selling any of their loot. There are more questions than answers.
When war finally erupts, Elizabeth is caught in the brutalising carnage of Edgehill while Thomas joins the Trained Bands in their defence of the city. As he mans the barricades at Brentford, in a desperate rearguard action to repel Prince Rupert’s surprise attack, he realises the future of London rests in the hands of him and a few hundred troopers.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth believes she has identified the jewel thief and goes underground to trace his hoard.
But all is not as it seems.
Writing has been central to Mike Ward’s professional life. On graduating from university he became a journalist, working in newspapers and for the BBC. He then went into journalism education, teaching and researching journalism practice before becoming head of the UK’s prestigious Journalism School at UCLan. For the last eight years he has run his own content creation company.
My thoughts: we return to Thomas Tallant’s London, in the grips of the English Civil War (Charles I vs. Parliament). London is for Parliament and the King is in Oxford (which he named his capital) with his Royalist soldiers.
Thomas is hired by Parliament to find out where some stolen black powder is being smuggled out of London from, which he does. Getting himself involved with turncoats and conspirators. Can’t see any of today’s MPs on the frontline of a battle wielding a musket somehow!
Meanwhile Elizabeth, Thomas’ friend, has been asked by the King’s physician to assist him in his field hospital. Sickened and saddened by the chaos and death she returns to London angry and traumatised. She’s been tasked to find a jewel thief and us poking around the Goldsmith’s Guild, despite having been warned off. Will this help soothe her after witnessing the brutality of the battlefield?
It was interesting to read about the fighting in Brentford and the taking of Syon House – places I know, and battles that aren’t as well known as Edgehill. The Civil War was a time that saw families divided and brothers on opposite sides. Thomas’ father wants to remain neutral, in the hope that his trading won’t be interrupted, but that’s probably not going to work for long.
The historical facts (the war, the jewel thefts) are real, which adds depth to the story and allows the author to bring things to life that are usually just a list in a textbook. Another enjoyable outing for Thomas and Co.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.