Harper Collins| 2 March 2023 | 454 pages|e-book |Review copy|5*
The damage caused by the Great Fire still overshadows the capital. When a man’s brutally disfigured body is discovered in the ruins of an ancient almshouse, architect Cat Hakesby is ordered to stop restoration work. It is obvious he has been murdered, and Whitehall secretary James Marwood is ordered to investigate.
It’s possible the victim could be one of two local men who have vanished – the first, a feckless French tutor connected to the almshouse’s owner;
the second, a possibly treacherous employee of the Council of Foreign Plantations.
The pressure on Marwood mounts as Charles II’s most influential courtiers, Lord Arlington and the Duke of Buckingham, show an interest in his activities – and Marwood soon begins to suspect the murder trail may lead right to the heart of government.
Meanwhile, a young, impoverished Frenchwoman has caught the eye of the king, a quiet affair that will have monumental consequences…
The Shadows of London by Andrew Taylor is historical crime fiction, the 6th book in his James Marwood and Cat Lovett Restoration series. I’ve read all of the previous books, set in 17th century England, during the reign of Charles II, and thoroughly enjoyed each one So I was delighted to find that this one is just as good, maybe even better. Although it does work as a stand-alone book I do think it’s best to read them in sequence to get the full background of the Restoration period and the relationship between James Marwood and Cat Hakesbury (formerly Lovett).
At the beginning of the book there is a list of the main characters, which I find very useful. It includes where they live and their professions and relationships with each other, including the real historical characters. There is also a Historical Note at the end of the book in which Taylor explains that the origins of the novel had germinated over a number of years following the Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein cases, whilst the catalyst came when he read Dr Linda Porter’s Mistresses: Sex and Scandal at the Court of Charles II. In one chapter Dr Porter focuses on the career of Louise de Keroualle, who became Charles II’s chief mistress during the second half of his reign. In The Shadows of London the story of Louise’s seduction with its political implications, based on fact, is interwoven with the mystery of the murder of the man found dead, brutally killed, in the grounds of a ruined almshouse that Cat’s workman were restoring.
The murder mystery is complicated first of all because the victim had no face, and nothing by which he could be identified. Both the characters and the settings are well described and the mixture of fact and fiction works well. It is fast paced, full of action and intrigue. The narrative is told from both Cat’s and James’s viewpoints switching from one to the other throughout the book. Their relationship continues to develop as they work together to find the culprit and it reaches a turning point in this book. I hope that there will be a 7th book as I really want to know what happens next …
One of the things that I really enjoyed in this book is the picture it paints of John Evelyn, the writer and diarist, bibliophile and horticulturalist. He was a contemporary of Samuel Pepys. His diary covers the years from 1640 to 1706 when he died. And now I want to find out more about him.
Andrew Taylor is a bestselling crime and historical novelist, and the winner of the Diamond Dagger of the Crime Writers Association, the Gold Crown of the Historical Writers Association and many other awards. He’s written nearly fifty books, listed here, three of which have been televised. I’d leave to see the Marwood and Lovett series adapted for television!
My thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for my review copy.